Last week our picks were a mess. We rode the Illinois ML and despite a 90% post-game win expectancy, that didn’t pay off. We also had Tulsa -6.5 but choked against Wyoming, allowing two defense/special teams touchdowns. 

After a week of tilting, I have two more plays that hopefully bring us better results.

Vanderbilt @ Wake Forest (-13) 

Prior to the news, that Sam Hartman would return this weekend, the spread in this game was around 8.5 points. It’s gone up five points in a day given the news, and I contend that still isn’t enough. Going from quarterback Mitch Griffis, who filled in admirably, to Hartman is worth a touchdown in my model. 

I think this number should be over two touchdowns and Wake Forest has been great at covering as a favorite during the Hartman era. Since, 2020, Wake has gone 10-5 as a favorite, covering by an average of 6.7 points in this time. This is one of the country’s most prolific offenses and given that the Sam Hartman injury required medical clearance, he should be physically ready. Missing only a game, he’ll be ready to go.

The biggest question is if the Wake Forest defense can keep Mike Wright and the Commodores contained. This defense has been suspect, to say the least but what we’ve seen the first two weeks from Vanderbilt isn’t representative of how this offense will likely play on a weekly basis. Again, this is not a good Wake Forest defense but it’s certainly the best defense that Vandy as seen thus far.

2021 Offense and Defense EPA/Play for all Power 5 schools via Campus2Canton’s Team Tool.

My read on the game is this: Wake Forest should have little problem scoring against a bottom-30 defense in Vanderbilt and while they have an EPA/play of -0.01 (ranked 35th in 2022 thus far), they’ve played Hawai’i and Elon (who posted 31 points) and ranked 110th in this metric last season. The Commodores will be able to score in this matchup but how much? They may not be able to keep up with this high-powered Deacs offense. Two games against bottom-tier opponents doesn’t change the outlook yet.

Pick: Wake Forest -13 / Wake Forest 1H TT o20.5 (DraftKings)

Iowa State @ Iowa (-3.5)

The Hawkeyes’ offense could have been better last week. Facing an, albeit good, FCS opponent, they scored 3 offensive points and had two safeties. With that, I don’t mind them being favored in this game as I do think they’re the better team. However, I do take issue with the hook (it being -3.5 instead of -3). The game total in this matchup sits at 40 currently, making a three-point game a likelier outcome versus a game with a higher total.

I believe this Iowa defense is demonstrably worse than last year’s unit that posted a -0.195 EPA per play, good for 13th in the country. This team loses three impact starters from last year’s defense including NFL draft pick Dane Belton, all three of their big losses were in the secondary, losing a combined 2,534 snaps from the 2021 team. Riley Moss is the only player in this secondary the Hawkeyes should have confidence in and it’s a vulnerable unit because of that. Iowa State may be able to throw here.

Offensively, the Iowa team is a cluster and one of the least appealing units in the nation. They will try to control the clock and run the most conservative game plan the Ferentz boys can cook up. I truly believe Kirk Ferentz would rather win this game by a field goal than by multiple scores. 

Unfortunately, the game will be played without the Pewter family “corn” trophy in 2022, a relic from the 2011 matchup. Image courtesy of Andrea Melendez, The Des Moines Register

On the other side, Iowa State may have found something in athletic quarterback Hunter Dekkers. Going 25-31 for 298 yards and four touchdowns, this offense may air it out more than we’re accustomed to. With Xavier Hutchinson operating as the WR1, we might see more dynamism from the Cyclone’s passing game.

Ultimately, a low score, a potentially good Iowa State offense, and Kirk Ferentz’s Jurassic-era playbook all give way to a close matchup and with the hook, I’m riding the Cyclones.

Pick: Iowa State +3.5 (FanDuel)

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