The Iowa Hawkeyes were just one win away from becoming Big Ten champions. But, instead, Iowa showed their true colors, losing to Michigan in the Championship, 42-3. The offense has been a problem all year, but the defense has been one of the best in the nation.
Now, Iowa will look to shut down an SEC offense in Kentucky that averaged over 33 points per game this season. The Wildcats finished the season with a 9-3 record and were regarded as one of the top 25 teams in the nation coming into the playoffs.
In Orlando, Florida, will Iowa find enough offense to defeat a promising Kentucky team?
All NCAAF gameday odds are courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook and updated as of 1:00 p.m. ET on Thursday, December 30.
Iowa vs. Kentucky Prediction
Both of these teams have had some incredible moments this year. Iowa put together a bunch of wins late in the season to earn a Big Ten Championship opportunity, while Kentucky ended up winning nine games in an incredibly tough SEC.
The Hawkeyes averaged 23.9 points per game while allowing 19.2 points per game. The offense averaged fewer than 300 yards on the offensive end per game. However, the defense allowed just 326.9 yards per game.
Quarterback Spencer Petras has not been the answer for Iowa, as he’s thrown just nine touchdowns with six interceptions on the year. Against Michigan in the Big Ten Championship game, Petras was eventually benched, but he’s listed as the starter for this game against Kentucky.
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Meanwhile, Kentucky has had its ups and downs this season. The Wildcats lost to Georgia, Mississippi State, and Tennessee but eventually finished the season on a three-game winning streak with wins against Vanderbilt, New Mexico State, and Louisville.
The Louisville win was impressive, especially on the road, where they won 52-21.
Kentucky is the more balanced team of the two. The Wildcats average 431.1 yards per game and allow just 337.1 yards per game. The offense can get down the field by passing the ball or with the run, as they’ve rushed for over 200 yards per game this season.
Therefore, I like Kentucky to put Iowa in its place.
Citrus Bowl Prediction: Kentucky 20, Iowa 10
Vrbo Citrus Bowl Best Bets
Best Bet: Kentucky -3 (-110) at Caesars
Wager: 1 Unit
As long as Spencer Petras is at quarterback for Iowa, I’ll fade them. Petras only completed 146 passes throughout the entire season. While he led Iowa to a championship game, it was mainly the running game and the defense that made it happen.
The only area where Kentucky has struggled a bit on the defensive end has been in coverage. But with a solid pass rush, that shouldn’t be a problem against Petras. The Wildcats have allowed 117.8 yards per game on the ground, which isn’t entirely terrible when you realize this team only allowed 337.1 total yards per game.
Meanwhile, the Kentucky offense has so much potential in the passing game. Kentucky scored over 50 points in their last two games and are really clicking. Iowa doesn’t have the most effective pass rush, and while they’ve been great defensively, Kentucky simply has more weapons.
Best Bet: Under 44 Total Points (-110) at Caesars
Wager: 1 Unit
There’s a real chance that Kentucky has some success in the air against Iowa. Will Levis has thrown for 23 touchdowns and 12 interceptions on the year. He’s not scared of throwing the football down the field, and in the last two games, it’s worked out in his favor.
However, Iowa’s an extremely tough defense to beat. Big plays won’t come very often, so while Kentucky will have the better offense, don’t expect Kentucky to score close to its average of 33.3 points.
Meanwhile, Iowa will have a hard time doing much against Kentucky. Kentucky is physical up front, and while they’ve struggled in coverage slightly, it won’t be an issue against Petras.
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