Today's Free Picks for
Posted at 11:00 AM EST.
Tuesday, January 1st, 2019 – Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Florida
12:00 PM EST. Iowa is top-10 nationally in sacks and sack yardage despite typically sending just a four-man rush. Earlier in the year we wrote what a difficult preparation Maryland's unique offense was for an Iowa defense that hadn't seen anything like it in years. The coaches were clearly concerned mostly about that side of the ball, but Phil Parker's charges shut out the Terps, allowing just 115 yards and seven first downs. The Iowa defense is feeling it right now.
All of that information had us leaning towards the Hawkeyes early but we’re switching gears, as McSorley and the Iowa defense are the more known quantities when we start to analyze this game. We'll mostly be trying to answer questions about the other side of the ball and whether or not there is value in taking back significant points in what is expected to be a low scoring game. Iowa’s offense hasn't been rushing the ball like it wants to this year and if they can’t run, it’s going to be a very long day.
The return of projected starter (RB) Ivory Kelly-Martin will certainly gave the unit a lift but he missed the final two weeks after missing more time earlier in the year. In his first return back, it was good to see that he was able to step right back into the workhorse role by logging 98 yards on 24 carries but overall, the Hawkeyes ran the ball 54 times that day. The team hasn't averaged five yards per rush in a game all season, and has just three rushes longer than 20 yards on the year.
Mississippi State has one of the nation's top defensive lines, led by NFL-caliber players such as Montez Sweat and Jeffery Simmons. Mississippi State presents an interesting matchup because just as Iowa's defense was hitting its stride, so, too, was the Bulldogs' offense. Stuck in one dimension in early October with quarterback Nick Fitzgerald struggling and no playmakers at receiver stepping up to help, this attack has corrected those issues and was very impressive through the air the last two weeks against respectable defenses. Furthermore, the Bulldogs defense is playing at a level that is unmatched. In the final five weeks of the season, State held Texas A&M to 13 points in a 28-13 victory, held Alabama to 24 in a 24-0 loss and also held Louisiana Tech, Arkansas and Mississippi to 3, 6 and 3 points respectively.
Next issue is the BIG conference that is turning out to be a bunch of frauds from top to bottom. Purdue was destroyed by Auburn and Michigan was destroyed by Florida. Yesterday, another BIG resident, Northwestern beat Utah in the Holiday Bowl 31-20 but mark that down as a completely misleading final score. NW was well on its way to getting smoked too when the Utes were on the Wildcats four-yard line and about to go up 27-10 in the third quarter. However, Utah fumbled and NW picked it up and took it the distance to turn what was going to be a 27-10 deficit into a 20-17 deficit. It also changed momentum. The Utes at one point in the game were losing the turnover battle 4-0 and still had a three-point lead (!), which once again shows how a BIG resident was being dominated. Finally, State Coach, Joe Moorhead had plenty of success as offensive coordinator at Penn State against Iowa in 2016 and in 2017 and that’s a seriously strong nugget to support getting behind the favorite here.
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Mississippi -7 +103 (Risking 2 units - To Win: 2.06)