We continue to whet your palate by looking at the bowl match ups involving Big Ten teams. There are some very juicy ones this year, and though it doesn’t qualify as a New Year’s Six tussle, the Outback Bowl has plenty of reasons to watch as well.
Iowa found itself towards the end of the regular season, and Florida used mostly defense to navigate the land-mines in the SEC, all the way to an East Division title. Things may have gone off the rails against ‘Bama in the SEC Championship Game, but there’s still bragging rights for both the Hawkeyes and Gators in Tampa.
Here are five reasons to eat a Bloomin’ Onion and turn on the Outback Bowl on January 2:
— Big Ten versus SEC bragging rights
Yep. It’s that time of year when we get those salty match ups between the Big Ten and big, bad SEC. And although the Big Ten has had a banner year during the regular season, the overrated narrative and chants of SEC! SEC! will rain down if those in the land of sweet tea and grits begin to pile up wins against the heartland.
Sure, this isn’t even one of the top four teams in the Big Ten against an SEC division champ, but that will matter little if the Gators are able to chomp down on the beaks of the Hawkeyes. And, heaven forbid, things are equal in some of the other Big Ten/SEC tilts, this one could swing the perception pendulum one way or the other.
— Can Florida find some offense?
The Gators have been great on the defensive side of the ball, but watching the side responsible for scoring points has been about as exciting as watching sand grow (what, you say sand doesn’t grow?). Point made.
Iowa’s defense seemed to find itself on a fateful night against Michigan, and a Gator offense that is No. 115 in the country should find things tough-sledding in Raymond James Stadium.
Both teams; strength appear to be on the defensive side, and if the Gators can find a way to move the chains consistently, it’ll give them a bit of an upper hand.
— Can Iowa continue its resurgence on offense?
Yeah, yeah, I just noted Iowa’s strength being defense, but the offense has also begun to find an identity as the sands fall in the hour glass. The Hawkeye offensive-line was just named the Joe Moore Award winner for the best O-line in the country, and it’s mostly because of its play late in the year.
That’s because suddenly, with a healthy and consistent starting unit now plugged in and ready to roll, the running lanes have opened, quarterback C.J. Beathard has had more time to throw, and the points are coming in more bunches than earlier in the year.
But … there is work to be done in this one against the country’s sixth ranked defense. It won’t be easy, but the momentum has to continue on offense to finish off the party in the Bay.
— Can C.J. Beathard get anything going through the air?
Not to beat a dead horse that’s already buried, but the Gator D is for real. It’s good against the run, but exceptionally stingy in giving up air-miles. Will there be a black-out over the New Year’s holiday?
If you rooting for Iowa, there has to at least be an effort to get something going down the field. It’s hard enough to impose willful intentions against an average team by being one-dimensional. To do it against a very, good defense is another story.
Iowa will no doubt try to establish the run, but it must sprinkle in the play-action pass and occasional efforts to stretch the field. Hitting on a few of them would also help.
— Who will cash in on the opportunities given?
In a game that figures to be a war of attrition, availability to cash-in points may be limited. That means when opportunity knocks, the door has to be kicked down. Touchdowns will be huge, but a field goal could decide this one.
Iowa has been great in the red zone this year, converting 92 percent of the time for eleventh in the country. Florida? Not so much. The Gators have been absolutely miserable once inside the 20-yard line. They only managed to walk away with points 70 percent of the time during the regular season.
Rutgers is the only team in the entire FBS that was worse in the red zone and we all know how the season in Piscataway turned out.
How each team fares deep in enemy territory could very well determine this one.