Low over/unders at Wrigley Field usually come about due to winds off Lake Michigan. The historic total of 29.5 points established for Saturday’s Big Ten matchup at Wrigley Field between Northwestern and Iowa on Saturday, however, is more a testament to stout defenses and sickly offenses.
The total, established at Circa Sports when it unveiled its Week 10 lines Sunday evening, is believed to be the first FBS game to have an over/under below 30 points dating back as far as 1995. The Hawkeyes are no stranger to lowering the bar for an opening total, as this is their fourth game in their last 12 going back to last season where they have been involved in a record-low opening total.
Sports wagering aside, the game has big implications in the West Division of the Big Ten, as the Hawkeyes (6-2, 3-2) are tied for fist with Minnesota. Northwestern (4-4, 2-3), which has opened 5.5 or 6 depending on the sportsbook, has played the season under the cloud of a hazing scandal uncovered in the summer but can further muddle the division race with a victory.
Stout defense often undone by subpar offense
College Football 🏈Week 10 Opening Lines
Opening App Limits: $3k Sides, $1k Totals pic.twitter.com/qkGIVvzqww
— Circa Sports (@CircaSports) October 29, 2023
Iowa ranks sixth among FBS schools in scoring defense at 14.5 points allowed per game and 20th in total defense with 314.8 yards given up per game. The Hawkeyes have yielded more than 16 points only once — a 31-0 whitewashing at then-No. 7 Penn State on Sep. 23 — and have not allowed a touchdown in their last two games.
Iowa’s offense, though, ranks last among 130 FBS schools with 232.4 yards per game — more than 26 less than the next-closest school. It also ranks 118th in scoring at 19.5 points per contest.
Despite keeping Minnesota out of the end zone Saturday, the Hawkeyes lost 12-10 and were held to 127 yards of total offense. That wasn’t even a season low for yardage, as Iowa gained only 76 yards in its loss to Penn State and has been held under 160 yards four times in its last 14 Big Ten games.
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Northwestern has averaged 21.8 points but been inconsistent from week to week. The Wildcats held off Maryland 33-27 on Saturday, topping 30 points for the third time this season, but they also were held to single digits in road losses to Big Ten lightweights Rutgers and Nebraska.
The Wildcats’ defense has been breached for 26.0 points per game, but Northwestern has shown an ability to win close games at home. The Wildcats are 4-0 at home and won the last three by a combined 15 points.
Friendly Confines and early betting trends
Iowa-Northwestern total at Wrigley this weekend: 29.5 points
Cubs’ highest scoring 2023 home game: 29 combined runs https://t.co/2XowXymCXV pic.twitter.com/bOW8Re0Bb9
— Joe Malfa (@MalfaJ98) October 30, 2023
This is Northwestern’s third game at Wrigley Field, though it had a scheduled game versus Wisconsin in 2020 canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Wildcats lost to Illinois 48-21 in 2010 and 32-14 to Purdue in 2021.
Those willing to tail the under for Iowa despite the sub-30 total can take heart in some trends in that direction. The under has delivered in Iowa’s last six games when the total has been 34.5 points or lower and is 6-2 in Iowa games in 2023.
Despite the over being 5-3-0 in Northwestern games this season, the under is 2-1-0 when below 40 points. Last year’s 33-13 win by Iowa ended a five-year streak of unders hitting and was just the second time in the last six matchups that the teams combined for more than 40 points.
Bettors in Illinois who want to wager on this game must make their bets in person at the state’s 14 retail sportsbooks, which include three off-track betting locations run by PointsBet, as the state does not allow mobile betting on games involving in-state schools. Illinois also does not permit in-game wagering on contests involving in-state schools.
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