enCYCLONEpedia: Cy-Hawk spread history

In most years, it seems like a hidden secret. One that is only cracked when you have the key to local knowledge instead of the broad umbrella of a national perspective. Yes, I’m talking about Cy-Hawk football and gambling.

While many things go into the conjuring up of a betting line on a college football game, one key factor in all of it is national perception. That perception drives Vegas bookies to give point spreads that will most likely result in even money being bet on both sides. That assures that no matter the result that Vegas wins because of the “juice” (10 percent cut of any winning bet) and the house ultimately wins.

This is never more evident than the annual Cy-Hawk football game. When the line is unveiled each year, it is almost undoubtedly met with friction as Iowa fans, ISU fans, and neutral observers at the local level almost always seem to think it is too high in favor of the Hawkeyes.

This week, the spread on the Cy-Hawk game started at Iowa, -15.5. Below is an image that shows the betting line and game result since the series renewal in 1977 (sans 1982 which I cannot track down). In the “Line” column the cell is filled black and has gold text if Iowa covered and if Iowa State covered it is filled red and with white text. Additionally, the game score is red and bolded in the instances that ISU won the game.


Here’s the news and notes from the betting line of year’s past:

  • Iowa has been favored in the last 13 contests and has won seven of those games. In those 13 games, the Cyclones have covered the spread nine times.
  • Iowa has been favored in 29 of the last 31 matchups and has a record of 22-9. The Cyclones covered the spread 14 times in those matchups.
  • In Iowa City, Iowa State has covered in five of the last six games and nine of the last 13. Just one time was ISU a favorite in that span and that was in 2000 as a 14 point favorite when the Cyclones won 24-14.
  • In the last eight games in Iowa City, ISU is 4-4 straight up but since the series renewal in 1977, the Cyclones are just 6-13 on the road.
  • On 18 occasions, the Hawkeyes were at least 10 point favorites and in those games the Cyclones covered eight times and won straight up on just twice (2007 in Ames and the streak breaker in Iowa City in 1998).
  • In the last six games that Iowa was favored by at least 10 points (2010, 2008, 2007, 2006, and 2004), the Cyclones covered in five of them (2010).
  • There have been ten previous meetings where Iowa was favored by at least ten points while the game was played in Iowa City since 1988. In those games, the Cyclones covered seven times.

Almost all of that history, but especially since 1998, indicates that often times the line is skewed a little too far to the folks from the east. That matches up with the likely national perception many outside of Iowa would have on this game and hence the betting line often giving too much credit to Iowa or not enough to the Cyclones.

That again seems to be the case this year with the Hawkeyes being 15.5 point favorites. Yet, this is a weird game this year. Iowa has had two subpar outings but still doing enough to win. Meanwhile the two performance data points from Iowa State are at opposite end of the spectrum. Kinnick may be the factor to settle it all in where it counts on the scoreboard, but in regards to covering the line? All bets are off.


Kirk Haaland


Kirk has been a contributor at Cyclone Fanatic since the fall of 2009 and is a lifelong Cyclone fan. He eventually started his own website,, where he cultivated an interest in statistical analysis and historical Iowa State football and basketball data. In 2014, Kirk came to Fanatic and housed his works here. In 2015 he launched a new website,, as the co-founder. There you can find in depth analysis of all things involving advanced statistical analysis in college football for every FBS program. Kirk graduated from Iowa State University in 2006 with a degree in Industrial Technology and has worked as a Manufacturing/Quality Engineer ever since. He's married to his wife, Kelley, and has three daughters, Hannah, Hayley, and Kinley (plus his Golden Retriever, Clyde).

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