Dec 5, 2020; Columbia, Missouri, USA; Missouri Tigers head coach Eliah Drinkwitz calls a timeout during the second half against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Faurot Field at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Wednesday’s Music City Bowl ‘highly unlikely’

This week’s Music City Bowl between Missouri and Iowa is “highly unlikely” due to an uptick in COVID-19 numbers with the Tigers, The Athletic reported Sunday.

The Tigers (5-5) are scheduled to face the No. 15 Hawkeyes (6-2) on Wednesday afternoon in Nashville, Tenn.

Missouri lost its final two games of the regular season, including a 51-32 decision at Mississippi State on Dec. 19.

Iowa won its last six games after opening the Big Ten campaign with losses to Purdue and Northwestern.

–Field Level Media

Nov 27, 2020; Iowa City, Iowa, USA; Iowa Hawkeyes head coach Kirk Ferentz runs off the field after the game against the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Kinnick Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

Iowa coach Ferentz tests positive for COVID-19

Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz tested positive for COVID-19.

The university announced Friday that the 65-year-old is asymptomatic and will work from home until Dec. 27. The team’s final regular-season game, scheduled for Saturday against Michigan, was canceled because of an outbreak among the Wolverines.

The No. 16 Hawkeyes (6-2) intend to play in a bowl game and will learn their destination on Sunday.

“We have been fortunate this season to have played eight games and to have very few positive cases,” Ferentz said in a statement. “When the team returns to practice on Tuesday, I will participate via zoom and our collective focus will be on preparing for the bowl game.”

Ferentz is the longest-tenured coach in the FBS. He is in his 22nd season as head coach of the Hawkeyes and 31st with the university. He has a career record of 168-106, including a 9-8 mark in bowl games.

The Hawkeyes have finished under .500 just four times since Ferentz took over the program in 1999.

–Field Level Media

Nov 29, 2019; Lincoln, NE, USA; Nebraska Cornhuskers safety Marquel Dismuke (19) tackles Iowa Hawkeyes running back Mekhi Sargent (10) in the second half at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

Iowa shoots for 6th straight win in rivalry vs. Nebraska

Reeling from a lopsided home loss and bracing for a rivalry game against a foe who’s had the upper hand for five straight seasons, Nebraska can anticipate what’s coming against the Hawkeyes in Iowa City on Friday.

“They’re going to try and run it down our throats,” Nebraska linebacker JoJo Domann said. “They’re going to try to out-physical us in all three phases of the game. They’re going to try to punch (us) in the mouth and then keep us down. And we’re going to be trying to do the same thing.

“So not being discouraged if they get us or if we get them. Just staying level-headed and playing four quarters of good football.”

Nebraska (1-3 overall, Big Ten) yielded 285 rushing yards in Saturday’s 41-23 loss to Illinois.

While Iowa (3-2, 3-2) has pushed for offensive balance this season — the Hawkeyes gained 186 yards through the air compared with 175 on the ground in Saturday’s 41-21 win at Penn State — the Cornhuskers figure to prepare for a steady dose of Iowa’s Mekhi Sargent and Tyler Goodson.

Sargent secured his first 100-yard game of the season at Happy Valley, rushing 15 times for 101 yards and two touchdowns, while Goodson gained 78 yards on 20 carries. The Hawkeyes have outscored opponents by 90 points during their three-game winning streak while running for 636 yards.

“The Big Ten is a run-first league,” Domann said. “We’ve got some of the biggest offensive linemen, biggest tight ends, big fullbacks and talented running backs across the whole league. So, you’ve got to be sound in your run fits. You’ve got to play more physical than them on defense, and you’ve got to get them out of your game plan, what they want to do to you.”

Nebraska leads the all-time series 29-18-3. The Hawkeyes edged the Cornhuskers 27-24 last season.

To keep things close again this time around, Nebraska realizes it will be paramount to protect the ball against an Iowa defense that forced four turnovers while collecting five sacks and 10 tackles for loss at Penn State.

Iowa scored 24 points off turnovers and benefited from a pair of interceptions from defensive linemen.

“Our guys are doing a good job on takeaways, and I don’t know if there’s a special reason for it other than they are playing hard and they’re doing a good job of film study and being where they should be and then being sound fundamentally,” Hawkeyes coach Kirk Ferentz said.

Nebraska turned the ball over on its first play from scrimmage against Illinois en route to a five-turnover day. Redshirt freshman quarterback Luke McCaffrey was 15-for-26 passing for 134 yards and three interceptions while rushing 26 times for 122 yards and two scores.

Cornhuskers coach Scott Frost said Monday he hasn’t committed to a starter for Friday’s game. Adrian Martinez threw for a late touchdown in relief of McCaffrey.

“I feel good about both of them,” Frost said. “We just need to keep coaching as well as we can, so we get the best that we can out of them.”

–Field Level Media

Nov 29, 2019; Lincoln, NE, USA; Iowa Hawkeyes wide receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette (6) scores a touchdown against the Nebraska Cornhuskers in the first half at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

Iowa suspends WR Smith-Marsette after arrest

Iowa suspended wide receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette for at least one game after his arrest early Sunday morning on an operating a vehicle while intoxicated charge.

Coach Kirk Ferentz said the senior won’t play when Michigan State visits Iowa on Saturday.

“I was disappointed to learn that Ihmir Smith-Marsette made a number of dangerous and potentially harmful decisions early this morning,” Ferentz wrote in a statement. “First and foremost I am thankful no one was hurt. Ihmir will be suspended for Saturday’s game against Michigan State. His availability for future games will be determined as he goes through the University of Iowa Student Athletic Code of Conduct process, which includes counseling and other department protocols.”

KCJJ Radio reported that Smith-Marsette was arrested in Iowa City after police clocked him driving 74 mph in a 30-mph zone. The officer who pulled over Smith-Marsette said he showed multiple signs of intoxication and registered a blood-alcohol content of 0.13 percent on a breath test.

“I spoke with Ihmir this morning, and he was apologetic and disappointed in himself,” Ferentz said. “As a coach and parent, I understand the personal pain that comes with making these types of decisions. These situations can be defining moments for all students. It is my responsibility to hold our players accountable and help them learn and succeed.”

Marsette-Smith played Saturday in Iowa’s 21-20 loss to Northwestern. He caught seven passes for a team-leading 84 yards and returned a kickoff for 33 yards.

He was named the Offensive MVP of the 2019 Holiday Bowl, when he scored receiving, rushing and kickoff return touchdowns, becoming the second player in school history to do so.

The Hawkeyes are 0-2 on the season.

–Field Level Media

Oct 24, 2020; Evanston, Illinois, USA; Northwestern Wildcats quarterback Peyton Ramsey (12) runs for a touchdown as Maryland Terrapins defensive back Nick Cross (3) tackles him during the first half at Ryan Field. Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off big win, Northwestern visits Iowa

The Big Ten’s two longest-tenured coaches, Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz and Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald, will face off for the 15th time Saturday in Iowa City.

The 15 matchups between the two men is the most for a pair of head coaches this century.

While historically Iowa (0-1, 0-1 Big Ten) has the edge in the matchup, Northwestern (1-0, 1-0) has seen recent success in what has slowly become a rivalry game between the two West Division foes. Fitzgerald is 8-6 in games against the Hawkeyes while Ferentz is 9-10 versus the Wildcats.

“Any time you play Northwestern, you know it is going to be a tough, competitive football game,” Ferentz said.

Northwestern is coming off a terrific season debut, a 43-3 rout of visiting Maryland.

The Wildcats’ new offense, led by Indiana graduate transfer Peyton Ramsey, scored five touchdowns and racked up 537 yards off offense in offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian’s first game in the role.

“We needed to get off to a fast start with the offense to gain confidence,” Fitzgerald said. “Everybody from our players, our staff, our support staff handled it really well on the offensive side of the ball.”

Ramsey was 23 of 30 for 212 yards in the game while the team averaged more than 6 yards per rush.

The Northwestern defense held the Terrapins to 207 total yards in part by forcing transfer quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa into three interceptions.

“We only had three interceptions as a secondary last year, and now to have that in one game is great,” Wildcats junior defensive back Cam Ruiz said.

Meanwhile, the Hawkeyes led in the fourth quarter against Purdue on Saturday before giving up 10 unanswered points to lose 24-14.

Iowa did almost all of its damage in the second quarter. On three of its four possessions in the period, the Hawkeyes scored points with 1-yard touchdown runs from Spencer Petras and Mekhi Sargent plus a 27-yard field goal by Keith Duncan.

On Iowa’s nine other possessions, the team managed only another field goal from Duncan. Despite outgaining Purdue by 74 yards, the Hawkeyes punted six times, lost two fumbles and ended with a turnover on downs.

Petras, a redshirt sophomore quarterback starting making his first start, was solid for Iowa. He finished with 265 yards on 22-of-39 passing.

“I think Spencer, for the first time out, we had a lot of first-time players, but for the quarterback position … I thought he did a lot of good things,” Ferentz said. “Lot of things he’ll get better, but really impressed with his poise and his control.”

In 2018, when Northwestern last traveled to Iowa City, the Wildcats upset the Hawkeyes 14-10 behind a diving 32-yard touchdown grab from Bennett Skowronek in the fourth quarter. With the victory, Northwestern clinched its first Big Ten West title.

The win was the third in a row for the Wildcats against the Hawkeyes. However, the streak was broken last October in Evanston, Ill., when Iowa shut out Northwestern 20-0.

–Field Level Media

Dec 27, 2019; San Diego, California, USA; Iowa Hawkeyes coach Kirk Ferentz reacts after the Holiday Bowl against the Southern California Trojans at SDCCU Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Iowa rejects demands of ex-players who allege racial discrimination

The University of Iowa is rejecting calls from eight former Hawkeyes football players who want $20 million in compensation for what they have said was racial discrimination.

The Black players were signees to the letter delivered to the university earlier this month. They also demand that athletic director Gary Barta, head coach Kirk Ferentz and assistant coach Brian Ferentz be fired over the discrimination allegations, according to the Des Moines Register.

The letter gave a deadline of Monday to have the former players’ demands met or face a lawsuit “to ensure they are rightfully compensated for their emotional, mental and bodily damages and that Iowa is appropriately held accountable for its unlawful, discriminatory conduct,” according to the Register.

In rejecting the demands made in the letter, the school’s president, Bruce Harreld, said, “Many of their concerns have been reviewed and addressed. And to be clear, any student-athlete that has left the university and did not obtain their degree is welcome to return, and we are here to support them.”

“There are several demands outlined in the letter, and we are proud of the efforts made to date,” Harreld said. “We have a path forward that includes ideas and recommendations from many current and former students aimed at making the University of Iowa a more inclusive and better place to learn, grow and compete as an athlete.”

Kirk Ferentz, who has been Iowa’s coach since 1999, said the threat of a lawsuit left him unable to speak about the allegations made by the former players, but that he is “deeply committed to helping everyone who joins the Hawkeye Football program reach their full potential on and off the field. My focus is now on our current players who are preparing for our first game this Saturday.”

The findings of an external review of the football program that were released in July found evidence of racial and cultural bias but did not recommend the removal of Ferentz or Barta.

The Husch Blackwell law firm released a 28-page report detailing the findings of its seven-week investigation into the Hawkeyes’ football culture. The firm interviewed 111 people, including 74 current and former players.

The report says many Black players had trouble adjusting to the “Iowa Way” and that they “were required to confirm to a ‘mold’ that appeared to be built around the stereotype of a clean-cut, White athlete from a midwestern background.”

The report said “some coaches have used those values to create and perpetuate an environment that bullies and demeans athletes, especially Black athletes.”

“In sum, the program’s rules perpetuated racial or cultural biases and diminished the value of cultural diversity,” the report reads. “The program over-monitored players to the point that they experienced heightened anxiety and maintained a culture that allowed a small group of coaches to demean players.”

The investigation began last month after several Black players spoke out about a dysfunctional culture within the Big Ten program.

That ultimately led to the dismissal of former strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle, who was removed from his position on June 14 with a reported $1.1 million settlement.

Doyle, who denied allegations of abusive treatment, is the only member of the coaching staff or administration to lose his job. That may not change following Thursday’s report.

–Field Level Media

Sep 28, 2019; Lincoln, NE, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes defensive tackle Tommy Togial (72) and linebacker Dallas Gant (19) tackle Nebraska Cornhuskers wide receiver Wan   Dale-Robinsonin the second half at Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

Ohio State-Nebraska among Big Ten openers

Preseason No. 2 Ohio State will open Big Ten play on Oct. 24 when it hosts Nebraska and conclude the shortened 2020 fall season on Dec. 12 at home against rival Michigan.

The Big Ten released the full schedule on Saturday, just days after conference leaders voted to reinstate the season for the fall. On Aug. 11, the conference announced football would be played in the spring, delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Other Week 1 games: Penn State at Indiana, Iowa at Purdue, Michigan at Minnesota, Rutgers at Michigan State, Illinois at Wisconsin, and Maryland at Northwestern.

The schedule reflects a slate of eight games without a bye week for each team, plus a ninth cross-division game to end the season based on seeding. Those games are scheduled to be played the same week as the Big Ten championship game on Dec. 19.

The tight timeline gives the conference no wiggle room to reschedule any games that might be called off because of COVID-19 positive tests in a program, which has proved to be an issue with some college teams already. On Friday, two games scheduled for Saturday — Baylor vs. Houston and Georgia Southern vs. FAU — were canceled because of positive tests.

The end of the Big Ten season coincides with the College Football Playoff committee’s timeline to announce the final rankings on Dec. 20. The top four teams advance to the playoff.

The preseason Associated Press Top 25 poll included six Big Ten teams: No. 2 Ohio State, No. 7 Penn State, No. 12 Wisconsin, No. 16 Michigan, No. 19 Minnesota and No. 24 Iowa.

Other key games on the schedule include Ohio State at Penn State (Oct. 31), Michigan at Michigan State (Oct. 31), Iowa at Minnesota (Nov. 14), Penn State at Michigan (Nov. 28), Wisconsin at Minnesota (Nov. 28) and Wisconsin at Iowa (Dec. 12).

–Field Level Media

Week 9 College Football Picks: Take Iowa Over Overvalued Penn State

The post Week 9 College Football Picks: Take Iowa Over Overvalued Penn State appeared first on SportsHandle.

Each week we’ll be providing our top college football picks.

Also check out our NFL “Lookahead Lines” story, finding value (or not) by comparing earlier lines, and identifying recency bias.

Back to the college game (season record: 11-9) … This week we look at three live underdogs and a big favorite in the Big Ten.

College Football Picks Week 9: Take Iowa Over Penn State; Maryland Should Have a Fairly Easy Time With Illinois

cfb picks week 9 iowa penn state

Iowa +6.5 over Penn State

Penn State continues to be the most overvalued team in college football. After losing two straight, the Nittany Lions managed to squeak by a bad Indiana team last week, 33-28, as a 14-point favorite. Penn State won the game despite being outgained by 137 yards.

Iowa has won three consecutive games by a combined score of 113-47 and is coming off a 23-0 shutout over Maryland. The Hawkeyes have been money on the road in recent years, going 22-10-1 ATS in its last 33 games away from home.

It seems like people still aren’t buying into Iowa, but the Hawkeyes have outgained five opponents by at least 100 yards and their only blemish this season was a tough loss at Wisconsin. Penn State has failed to cover its last two games as favorites, while Iowa is 4-0 ATS in its last four road games dating back to last year.

The money came in on Penn State early with the line opening between 4.5-6 and up to 6.5 at most Las Vegas sportsbooks. I expect the money to come in the other way as we get closer to kickoff. Almost a touchdown is too much to give in what should be a close game throughout.

I’ll gladly take the Hawkeyes plus the points with a small wager on the Iowa ML +210.

Texas A&M +1 over Mississippi State

These two teams are going in opposite directions. Texas A&M has won three straight and is coming off a bye, while Mississippi State has lost three of four.

The Bulldogs were expected to be Alabama’s biggest threat in the SEC West, but have struggled on the offensive side of the ball. Mississippi State has scored seven points or fewer in its last three losses.

The Bulldogs aren’t likely to get the offense going this week. Texas A&M allows just 78 yards per game rushing and 3.1 yards per carry. The Aggies’ defense has held its last three opponents to a season-low in total yards. Mississippi State will need to throw the ball to win this game and that won’t be easy.

Quarterback Nick Fitzgerald is coming off a game versus LSU where he threw for 59 yards and four interceptions while completing just 33 percent of his passes. Fitzgerald has thrown for fewer than 100 yards in three straight games with no touchdowns and five interceptions.

The Aggies are 6-1 ATS this season and after starting 3-0. Mississippi State is 1-3 SU and ATS in its last four games. I’ll call for the small road upset here. Keep in mind the line opened at 3 and has come down to 1.

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Kentucky +7 over Missouri

I took Kentucky last week as a 14-point favorite over Vanderbilt. They won, 14-7, failing to cover in one of the ugliest games you’ll ever see. I’m going back to the Wildcats getting a touchdown on the road to Missouri this week.

The Tigers hammered Memphis last Saturday, 65-33, as a nine-point favorite. Memphis is a perfect opponent for Missouri because it has one of the worst defenses in the country. The Tigers face a much tougher test this week against Kentucky. The Wildcats rank 11th in total defense, holding opponents to 108 yards below their season average.

Kentucky is also 14th in pass efficiency defense and its defensive front should create problems for Missouri quarterback Drew Lock. Lock’s numbers are great against weaker competition, but he has a TD to interception ratio of 21-28 versus Power 5 bowl opponents.

Missouri has played four Power 5 teams this year, beating Purdue by three, losing to Georgia by 14, losing to South Carolina by three and losing to Alabama by 29. A touchdown is too much here with an overvalued Missouri team. Kentucky has won three straight in this series. Make it four.

Maryland -17.5 over Illinois

This is the first meeting between the two schools and Illinois comes in losers of four of its last five games. The Illini have been outscored in their last two games, 95-27, in losses to Purdue and Wisconsin.

Maryland got shut out, 23-0, on the road in Iowa last week, but I view the Hawkeyes as one of the top teams in the Big Ten. The Terrapins have taken care of business versus teams they’re supposed to beat this year, defeating Bowling Green by 31, Minnesota by 29, and Rutgers by 27.

Maryland is tough when it can run the football with running backs Ty Johnson and Anthony McFarland. Expect that to be the case on Saturday against an Illinois defense allowing 273 rushing yards per game and 6.1 yards per rush in Big Ten play.

Maryland is 4-3 and 3-1 at home while playing one of the nation’s toughest schedules. It gets a breather this week in the reeling Illini who are just 8-19 ATS in their last 27 as an away dog. The Terrapins romp at home.

Also check out The Pro Football Handle: NFL Week 8 has both a potential NFC Championship preview in Saints vs. Vikings and the worst game of the year with 49ers vs. Cardinals. The New York Football Giants are in the midst of a fire sale and the Oakland Raiders are officially in tank mode. There are some crazy lines this week, listen below for complete insight and some laughs:

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The post Week 9 College Football Picks: Take Iowa Over Overvalued Penn State appeared first on SportsHandle.