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Iowa vs. Stanford Prediction, Rose Bowl Preview

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Is the Rose Bowl going to seem strange? Iowa (12-1) vs. Stanford (11-2) isn’t a playoff game, and it comes the day after the two CFP showdowns, but it’s still New Year’s Day, it’s still the Big Ten vs. the Pac-12, and it’s still the Rose Bowl. Check out the Iowa vs. Stanford, Rose Bowl prediction and preview.


Iowa vs. Stanford Game Preview

Broadcast

Date: Friday, January 1

Game Time: 5:00 pm ET
Network: ESPN
Venue: Rose Bowl, Pasadena, CA
Follow and/or Contact @PeteFiutak  

Why You Need To Care

It’s Iowa’s first trip to the Rose Bowl since the end of the 1990 season – a 46-34 loss to Washington – but it’s been a regular on the bowl circuit, went to two Orange Bowls, and held its own throughout the years in various post-season trips. But there’s also a little bit of a sense that there’s a hard ceiling on what the program can do. It’s great to be the try-hard team, but that can only go so far.

The same reasons America doubted the Hawkeyes on the way to a 12-0 record – okay talent, no flash, mediocre schedule – are why the team needs this win. 2015 has been a wildly successful year no matter what happens in Pasadena, but a loss would reinforce the stereotype that Iowa, when it’s strong, is a nice, solid program, but not among the elite.

It won the 2010 Orange against a very good Georgia Tech team, but not an elite won, and was crushed by a burgeoning powerhouse of a USC squad in the 2003 Orange. Over the last three bowl appearances, the Hawkeyes lost to good Oklahoma and LSU teams, and last season was outclassed by an ultra-athletic Tennessee squad. But this is the chance. This is the opportunity to do something no Iowa team has ever done and win 13 games. This is the shot at winning the school’s first Rose Bowl since beating Cal in 1959.

This is the shot at being among the elite. This is also the chance pushing aside the nightmare of a finish to the Big Ten championship.

This team is built around one of the nation’s strongest run defenses, efficiency, and ball control, and in one epic nine minute drive, Michigan State took all that away on the way to the College Football Playoff. Beat Stanford, and Iowa is the Rose Bowl champion. Lose, and all the doubters will be correct.

Iowa whacked Northwestern 40-10 in Evanston, while Northwestern opened the season with a 16-6 win over Stanford. Had the Cardinal played some total cupcake instead for a layup win, they’d likely be preparing for the College Football Playoff instead of the Rose.

In a lot of ways, Stanford is like Iowa, only with more pizzazz, using a strong defense, a creative rushing offense, and a brilliant line to pave the way for Christian McCaffrey and an offense that put up 30 points or more on everyone but Northwestern. Used to the Rose Bowl limelight at this point, many of the players saw time in the 2014 loss to Michigan State and the 2013 win over Wisconsin. The respect is there for the program with the experience factor, but now it’s time to show it. Win impressively, and those who thought the Pac-12 champs probably deserved to be in the playoff will have their argument.

Why Iowa Will Win

How do you beat Stanford this season? You out-Stanford, Stanford.

Northwestern beat up the Cardinal defensive front for a grinding 225 rushing yards. Oregon whipped the Stanford D for 231 rushing yards and three scores, and Notre Dame pounded away for 299 yards and two touchdown averaging over eight yards per carry. Obviously it’s no coincidence that the three times all year teams ran for 200 yards or more resulted in the two losses and a third almost-loss.

Iowa’s running game just didn’t work against Michigan State, getting stuffed for just 52 yards and going nowhere. The Hawkeye O line is better than that, and more importantly, the backfield is about to get healthier. It’s easy to say that it’s just a sprain, but top back Jordan Canzeri suffered an ankle injury in the Big Ten championship game that took him out. The time off is expected to get him ready to go for a ground attack that cranked out 200 yards or more seven times on the year and averaged 192 per game on the season.

On the other side, Iowa only allowed 200 yards once all year in the tight win over Indiana. Start throwing, and that plays into exactly what the Hawkeye defense wants you to do.

Why Stanford Will Win

How do you beat Iowa this season? You out-Iowa, Iowa.

Part of the analysis before the Big Ten championship was that Michigan State does a lot of the same things Iowa does, only with more talent and with a far better quarterback. Iowa’s C.J. Beathard was terrific, but Connor Cook is the veteran who led the Spartans on the game-winning drive. Stanford’s Kevin Hogan – like Cook – has been there and more than done that. He’s not going to bomb away all over the field, but he’s now a big-game quarterback who won’t buckle under the pressure.

But the bigger problem for the Hawkeyes could be the way Stanford pounds away. Michigan State was able to push and shove when push came to shove, and the Cardinal NFL-caliber front five can do just that, helping the offense lead the nation in time of possession while ranking third in third down conversion percentage.

Iowa has good players across the board, but again, just like it didn’t have a Cook under center in Indianapolis, in the backfield it doesn’t have a …

Player Who Matters

Christian McCaffrey. Unfortunately for his Heisman campaign, much of America was tuning into Iowa in the Big Ten championship, and Clemson vs. North Carolina in the ACC title game, missing out on McCaffrey’s epic performance against USC in the Pac-12 championship. The 32 carries for 207 yards and a touchdown were great, the four catches for 105 yards and a touchdown were special, the 11-yard touchdown pass was the highlight, the two punt returns for 29 yards were solid and the five kickoff returns for 120 yards added to his all-around day. It’s easy for any great defense to take one player away, but Stanford has Hogan who can move the chains, too.

But that’s where Desmond King comes in.

Iowa’s star corner took home the 2015 Thorpe Award after coming up with eight interceptions including an 88-yard pick six against Maryland on Halloween. Soon after, no one threw his way anymore. The Detroit native is a tough, active all-around defender with 67 stops on the year including a season-high 11 against Purdue, and he’s a bit McCaffrey like in his all-purpose abilities averaging 25.6 yards per kickoff return and 12.7 yards per punt try. A potential top 50 draft pick, a few big plays on the big stage could boost him up into the early second round.

What’s Going To Happen?

The time off is going to help Iowa more than Stanford.

Ohio State would’ve been fired up to be in Pasadena, but Iowa should bring a different fire and a whole lot more fun. Hawkeye fans will pack the place in what should be a tremendous atmosphere. Considering the last four Big Ten vs. Pac-12 Rose Bowls were thrillers – the TCU vs. Wisconsin game in 2011 wasn’t bad, either – and with these two teams being so similar, this should be a tough, tight game that goes down to the wire.

Which team can control the clock? Which one can impose its will on the other? Both will have moments, but with a month to heal up, Iowa’s running game will be just strong enough, and QB C.J. Beathard just good enough, to give head coach Kirk Ferentz his 13th win of the season.

Rose Bowl Prediction

Prediction: Iowa 27, Stanford 24, Line: Stanford -6.5, o/u: 53
Must See Rating: 5: Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens – 1: Property Brothers at Home on the Ranch … 4

MORE: 10 Best College Football Bowl Games

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