Big 10: Iowa Hawkeyes Team Preview

Last year I wrote that Iowa had what amounted to a dream schedule for ‘14. They avoided all the top teams in the Big 10 east, and played Big 10 west contenders Nebraska, Wisconsin and Northwestern all at home! The non-conference schedule was also built for success. 7-5 was disappointing and unacceptable, and topped off with a blowout bowl loss to a very young Tennessee team. The only difference in the incredibly soft overall ’15 schedule now is that they will travel to their Big 10 west rivals. Here’s a VERY disturbing fact: Iowa may have had the worst recruiting haul of any Big 10 team! Has complacency set in?

AREAS TO WATCH: To be honest the biggest key is for this program to regain their swagger. Beyond that, I do expect the run O to improve (projected 4.3 with this schedule) but I also need to see more run game consistency on a weekly basis as compared to last year. Iowa needs to do a better job closing out home games. They are a completely unacceptable 7 of 18 in games vs. “lined” opponents. At the same time they are 7-3 against lined opponents on the road, so winning vs. this slate of Big 10 and non-conference opponents really shouldn’t be that tough a task. Iowa lost its top two (and only two) sackers to graduation so I expect defensive pressure to be weakened. The front seven on defense lacks solid experience. On the positive side, the special team units look good and the -5 turnover ratio seems like it can improve with an experienced QB in place.

’15 PREVIEW: Iowa’s ’15 record should be better than their overall talent thanks to a favorable schedule. 4-0 is likely in September thanks to a revenge game at Iowa St (good history at) and a home game vs. Pitt and their new staff. They could be 5-1 heading to Northwestern, which is going to be a key game that will help separate Big 10 west contenders. Given Iowa’s road success, this could easily be a win. Iowa should be embarrassed if with two weeks to prepare they cannot hold serve hosting Maryland, a team with some decent graduation losses. Like with Northwestern, the game at Indiana looks like a tossup. That could mean Iowa is 7-2 prior to home games vs. Minny ((solid history) and Purdue (ditto). Iowa has revenge vs. Nebraska in the finale.

BOTTOM LINE: I “hate” the fact that Iowa projects 8-4 and maybe even 9-3 given the schedule analysis. The team is about the same as ’14 but will not sack opponents as much. It has been since ’09 that Kirk Ferentz has lost fewer than five times in a season. I am not high on their future due to a drop in recruiting but I can’t see less than 7-5 this season, and if that turnover ratio reaches the plus column, 8-4 is firmly in play.

HANDICAPPING TIP: None, although keep in mind Iowa is a solid road team.

College Football Games of the Year: Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Wisconsin Badgers

The Golden Nugget in Las Vegas has posted its lines for the “Games of the Year” in college football for the 9th year in a row ($1,000 max limit bets on the games) and the team from WagerTalk.com was there! Sports Cheetah ( @SportsCheetah ), Bryan Leonard ( @BLeonardSports ) and Marco D’Angelo ( @MarcoInVegas ) break down Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Wisconsin Badgers and share a free college football pick. We love to hear your comments on who you like and why!

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NFC North: Detroit Lions Team Preview & Predictions

Detroit Lions Team Preview

via NFL Cheetah Guide 2015 Everything You Need … To Beat NFL Football

(2014 Record: 11-5)

Projected Spread

Projected Win %

@ San Diego

1

0.49

@ Minnesota

PK

0.5

Denver

PK

0.5

@ Seattle

8.5

0.25

Arizona

-3.5

0.61

Chicago

-5.5

0.65

Minnesota

-6

0.66

@ Kansas City

3

0.43

@ Green Bay

7

0.3

Oakland

-9.5

0.75

Philadelphia

-3.5 (GOY line -1.5)

0.61

Green Bay

1

0.49

@ St. Louis

1.5

0.48

@ New Orleans

2.5 (GOY line +4)

0.46

San Francisco

-4.5

0.63

@ Chicago

PK

0.5

Power Rating: 91

Win Total: 8.31

General Outlook and Predictions: The Detroit Lions defense made a leap in 2015 and finished with the 3rd most efficient unit in the NFL. Unfortunately their offense took a step back thanks to Calvin Johnson injuries and a running game that was once again non-existent. If the defense is a strong as they were a year ago then the Lions will be in plenty of games this season and likely fighting for a playoff berth at the end of the year. My numbers line up across the board with oddsmakers as far as season win totals and futures are concerned so I won’t be getting involved in any at this time.2015

NFL Cheetah Guide 2015 Everything You Need … To Beat NFL Football 

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Big 10: Nebraska Cornhuskers Team Preview

Bo Pelini fired himself! Never winning less than nine games, Bo dared the generally patient Nebraska administration to fire him with some rather direct quotes. Nebraska obliged, especially considering that while solid, the ‘Huskers could never deviate from four loss seasons. The surprise new hire is Mike Riley. His claim to fame is that absolutely nobody dislikes him. It is culture change at Nebraska in more ways than one entering ’15.

AREAS TO WATCH: The conference point D has been 24+ each of the past three seasons (27 in ’14). Nebraska’s pass D has averaged not much more than 48% the past six seasons so there really is no reason for such a high figure. Five of the ‘Huskers top six tacklers are gone! I’ve jumped up the pass D% to 54.5%, but lowered the run D projection to a perhaps wishful thinking 4.35. Riley’s long time assistants are with him here so it will be interesting to see how the group fares with presumably more talent than available in Corvallis, Oregon and far more fertile recruiting ground. There’s RB talent, but stud RB Ameer Abdullah graduated and Riley runs more of a pro based attack. There has to be genuine concern replicating consistent run attacks which usually average 240+ yards per game. I like the fact that QB Armstrong is a seasoned veteran and do believe he will improve upon his under 53% completion figure, but he’s hardly a traditional QB and turnovers are likely. The OL must replace three starters.

’15 PREVIEW: The schedule is manageable, with NO sets of back-to-back road games and not even close to any schedule traps! There are two tough September non-conference games, hosting BYU and at Miami Florida. These look like tossups and I think Nebraska “should” be pleased with a 3-1 start. There should be at least some concern traveling to Illinois 10/3 as the Illini have a solid offensive coordinator and the ‘Husker D is on paper weaker than a year ago. In fact, despite the reasonable schedule I could make a case where every Big 10 game has some downside. Wisky has more talent. Northwestern is a solid road team. Minny is 13-3 at home the past two seasons and beat this team in ’13 and ’14. Purdue will have two weeks to prepare to HOST Nebraska and is presumed better in their staff’s 3rd season. Michigan St is also off a week of rest and is a top 10-15 national team. Rutgers has won 19 of their last 26 at home. Finally, Iowa has overtime revenge and is 1-1 at Nebraska, so despite the ‘Husker bye they have at least a chance of victory. Nebraska may be favored in about six of these games, but will 6-2 in the Big 10 be tougher to achieve than people think?

BOTTOM LINE: 2001 was the last time Nebraska won 11 games. Its’ been over a decade since they went through a season (bowls included) without losing at least four games! Mike Riley is a solid guy who tends to bring out the best in his players, and he enters a conference where his major weakness (not adapting to the spread offenses around the Pac 12) might be minimized here! 7-2 is the ceiling I see prior to the host of Michigan St, and if my stat lines are correct, 6-3 is logical. I’m a bit scared the wheels could fall off, but 8-4 is the lukewarm prediction, with more possible if the defense overachieves from what I project, and the road record holds up under ’15 scrutiny.

HANDICAPPING TIP: Nebraska is 7-14 ATS as a double digit grass road favorite. Sadly, that just puts Purdue (and maybe Rutgers) into play but just like with Wisconsin (see their notes), new coaches who are not rush picks are not wise plays. Add to the equation that the ‘Huskers are a 28-17 play against team ATS when my rush stat formula predicts a spread loss and I’ll look to fade the Huskers with should these conditions be met.

College Football Games of the Year: Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Wisconsin Badgers

The Golden Nugget in Las Vegas has posted its lines for the “Games of the Year” in college football for the 9th year in a row ($1,000 max limit bets on the games) and the team from WagerTalk.com was there! Sports Cheetah ( @SportsCheetah ), Bryan Leonard ( @BLeonardSports ) and Marco D’Angelo ( @MarcoInVegas ) break down Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Wisconsin Badgers and share a free college football pick. We love to hear your comments on who you like and why!

Read moreBig 10: Nebraska Cornhuskers Team Preview

Big 10: Wisconsin Badgers Team Preview

Barry Alvarez carefully chose Gary Anderson to replace Bret Bielema and with good on field reasons. Anderson got Utah St to record levels in the run game (three NFL RB draftees) and his run D was sound fundamentally. That fit perfectly here, and in ’13 the historically excellent run O reached new heights at 6.9/291! That level was exceeded in ’14 at 7.0/320. Until the disastrous title game vs. Ohio St the Badgers were two scores away from perfection. Life looked good, but Anderson wasn’t happy. His shocking departure paved the way for former OC Paul Chryst, a Madison native and former player here to return. The west side of the Big 10 looks (much) softer on paper. Does Wisconsin pick up right where they left off with another title opportunity?

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