So it has come to this. If you wrote off Iowa after September, when it closed the month by losing to North Dakota State at home then surviving Rutgers (14-7) on the road, there are only three days left to acknowledge that, from a pure power perspective, this 7-4 Hawkeyes team is basically as good as most people thought it would be. Friday’s game is about as difficult for Nebraska as it looked at the start of the season.
The Vegas line opened yesterday with Iowa as a 3-point favorite and, while it’s still early and includes some quarterback uncertainty for the Huskers, that seems to be about where the predictions are trending.
>>S&P+ has Nebraska ranked 30th and Iowa 36th, but gives Iowa a 52-percent win probability.
>>ESPN’s FPI actually ranks the Hawkeyes (31st) ahead of Nebraska (37th). Iowa currently has a 62.1-percent win probability. The Hawkeyes’ big advantage? According to ESPN’s efficiency rankings, Nebraska’s offense is a little better, Iowa’s defense is better to a similar degree, but the Hawkeyes have a huge edge in special teams. Of course.
>>McIllece Sports, which you’ll recall was really high on Nebraska in the preseason, has a predicted score (based on my calculations) of about 24-20, Iowa. McIllece includes game-by-game plus/minus rankings, which show that Nebraska has only exceeded expectations (based on scoring margin) in three games this season: Wyoming, Northwestern and Maryland. Iowa has met that threshold in four of it last six.
Expect a lot of Iowa picks this week, except maybe from the betting public. It’s still really early, but at Nebraska +3, more than 60 percent of the money has come in on the Huskers at this point.
Wheeling and Dealing Season
There’s only one regular-season week left (non-Sun Belt edition), which means we are in the meat of hiring and firing time. Here are a handful of updates from around the country:
TEXAS – Yeah, it’s a mess down there. The Austin American-Statesman reported Sunday that Charlie Strong was going to be fired, prompting Texas AD Mike Perrin to issue a statement saying Strong would coach the game Friday against TCU. Not exactly a vote of confidence. Should Texas make the change, I’ll pat myself on the back because I didn’t think Strong was a particularly strong hire when it was made, but then I’ll watch with keen interest to see who is interested in that job. In theory, everyone is. It’s Texas, one of the most advantageous places to be, but it’s also sort of a zoo of late in the athletic department. I could see a smart coach and astute observer confident in his ability to advance his career no matter what rather than simply strike while the iron is hot — someone like, oh, I don’t know, Tom Herman — looking at that job and everything that comes with it and having some trepidation.
LSU – According to a report from The Advocate, sources close to the situation at LSU are saying current Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher is the top candidate. Ed Orgeron is reportedly still in the mix, thought not as much as he was two weeks ago. Herman is mentioned, of course. Two other interesting names on the Advocate’s list: Virginia Tech’s Justin Fuente and North Carolina’s Larry Fedora. LSU is hoping to move quickly here, which, it should. That’s the whole reason it fired Les Miles to begin with, to get out in front of other schools.
PURDUE – Speaking of Miles, he and P.J. Fleck may be the top two candidates according to this compilation of reports from Nathan Baird of the Lafayette Journal-Courier. One relative new name being mentioned for the Purdue job — Wyoming’s Craig Bohl.
The Grab Bag
- Deeply reported story from Brad Wolverton of The Chronicle of Higher Education on “The Myth of the Sports Scholarship.”
- Iowa’s passing game has left a little to be desired of late, but the Hawkeyes are winning without it.
- The Big Ten has three teams in the AP’s top five for the first time in 56 years.
- Happy 80th birthday “Hail Varsity.” Great read from Joe Hudson of HuskerMax.
Today’s Song of Today
Brandon is the Managing Editor for Hail Varsity and has covered Nebraska athletics for the magazine and web since 2012, Hail Varsity’s first season on the scene. His sports writing has also been featured by Fox Sports, The Guardian and CBS Sports.