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College football betting: This is the season to bank on Iowa State

·Betting analyst
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Head coach Matt Campbell is making sure everybody in the nation is paying attention to Iowa State. Last season, his Cyclones knocked off perennial favorite Oklahoma, 37-30, en route to an 8-1 conference record. In the Big 12 championship, they fell short against the same Sooners.

But Iowa State's convincing 34-17 win over Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl put an exclamation point on an emphatic season. The 2020 season was the best in Iowa State program history, and Matt Campbell is preparing to take the Cyclones to the next level in 2021.

Campbell returns over 90% of his starters from 2020

Iowa State has every opportunity to pick up right where they left off last season. The Cyclones return 20 of 22 starters, including their entire offense. QB Brock Purdy leads a unit that averaged 32.9 points per game and ranked 16th in offensive efficiency. Its foundation is an offensive line that ranks fourth in the country overall and 18th in sack rate allowed. The protection allows Purdy to utilize the middle of the field with one of the most talented tight-end combinations in the country. The depth and experience on the offensive line should also pave the way for running back Breece Hall to put himself into Heisman contention. Hall racked up 1,572 yards at 5.6 yards per attempt with 21 TDs. You can bet Breece Hall to win the Heisman at +4000 at BetMGM.

The exciting news for Cyclones fans is that the offense is the compliment to a ferocious defense. Iowa State returns nine starters from a 2020 unit that finished 15th in defensive efficiency and 17th in third-down conversation rate. Big 12 defensive player of the year, Mike Rose, leads a linebacking corps that is considered second-best in the nation behind only Alabama. With so much returning production on both sides of the ball, it's easy to see why Iowa State has the sixth-best odds to win the national championship at +2500.

Matt Campbell's quest to build off a top-10 season goes through Oklahoma. Without the Big 12 crown, it's difficult to envision them earning a spot in the College Football Playoff. Iowa State is currently +450 to make the playoffs at BetMGM while the Sooners sit at -225. The large gap in implied probability at those prices shows how differently the market views these two programs. At -225, the odds imply that Oklahoma has a 69.23% of making the playoff compared to Iowa State's 18.18%. Playoff or not, I'm willing to wager this Iowa State team is headed for a very successful season.

Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy (15) and running back Breece Hall (28) are shown in the third quarter of a Big 12 game between the Cyclones and Kansas Jayhawks on Oct. 31, 2020. (Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Iowa State quarterback Brock Purdy (15) and running back Breece Hall (28) are shown in the third quarter of a Big 12 game between the Cyclones and Kansas Jayhawks on Oct. 31, 2020. (Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Best bet for Cyclones fans

The best bet for Iowa State backers is the win total. The odds at BetMGM are currently -110 for Iowa State to go over 9.5 wins on the season. Even if the Cyclones can't overtake the Sooners, they are in a great position to hit the 10-win mark. In the first five weeks, Iowa is the only challenge on the schedule. A three-game November stretch featuring Texas, at Texas Tech, and Oklahoma will be a real test of the team's maturity. Even if the Cyclones drop two of those three, a 10-2 season is realistic as they end the year at home against TCU.

Forget about the Sooners. Consistency is the next level for the Cyclones. They can't afford the upset losses they suffered in 2020 against Louisiana and Oklahoma State. Per the Cover 3 podcast, Matt Campbell is 20-11 as an underdog ATS and only 16-13-1 as a favorite at Iowa State. The coach and the returning experience are significant factors in why I'm comfortable they will go over the 9.5 win total. There is no ceiling for the Cyclones, but sometimes it's best to bet the floor. They are betting favorites in 11 of 12 games, and that is enough for me to bank on 2021 being the best season ever for Iowa State.

Stats provided by Football Outsiders, teamrankings.com, philsteele.com

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