Iowa looks to end its season on a four-game winning streak with a victory over Florida in the Outback Bowl. Here are some storylines and predictions for the Hawkeyes ahead of that matchup.
Let’s not sugarcoat things here – the Outback Bowl has the potential to be one of the most boring games Bowl Season has seen in many years. I think Iowa and Florida fans willingly can admit that.
It’s not because of lack of talent, but more so because both the Hawkeyes and Gators have the ability to shut down their opponents with stingy defense.
Iowa’s chances of finishing its second season – more on that later – with a victory hinges on whether or not LeShun Daniels and Akrum Wadley can break through a Florida run defense that has been on its heels lately. Here are some other storylines and predictions for the Hawkeyes leading up to their Outback Bowl matchup with the Gators.
Daniels and Wadley form the best RB duo in Iowa history
Daniels, all 225 pounds of him, is the power back. He’s run for 1,013 yards and 10 touchdowns. His last two games have been his best – 159 yards and two touchdowns against Illinois, and 158 yards and two scores versus Nebraska.
Wadley is the the elusive one. The 5-foot-11 junior has rushed for 966 yards and 10 touchdowns while going over 100 yards five times. Two have Wadley’s TD runs have gone for 75 yards. If he can gain 34 yards in the Outback bowl, Wadley and Daniels will be the first pair of running backs in Iowa history to hit 1,000 in the same season.
No Big Ten team has had such a duo since James White and John Clay in 2010.
Daniels and Wadley will exposes Florida’s struggling run defense
We’ve touched on Iowa’s running backs and what they can do. And all signs point to Daniels and Wadley running all over the the Gators.
Florida allowed 249 yards on the ground in a 31-13 loss to Florida State, then gave up 234 in a 54-16 demolishing at the hands of Alabama in the SEC title game. The Gators have given up at least 219 yards rushing in five of their last seven games. Those numbers are a bit skewed considering teams try to limit pass attempts against them, but the Gators still are showing they’re susceptible to allowing a lot of yardage on the ground.
C.J. Beathard will throw fewer than 20 passes again
Iowa’s 286 pass attempts this season ranked 117th in the nation. The success of the Daniels-Wadley duo has plenty to do with that, but do does that fact the Beathard isn’t exactly a standout quarterback. Beathard completed just 52.9 percent of his passes and didn’t throw more than 20 in any of Iowa’s last three games despite the Hawkeyes winning them all. They’re hoping it won’t be necessary for him to hit the 20-pass mark in Outback Bowl either.
Florida ranks third in the nation against the pass, allowing just 156.3 yards per game through the air. It tied for the fewest passing touchdowns allowed in the country with eight and also picked off 13 passes, with Teez Tabor snagging four picks and Quincy Wilson adding three.
It’s safe to say Beathard won’t be throwing the ball unless Iowa absolutely needs him to do so.
Iowa’s tale of two seasons
There was a point when the Hawkeyes, who came one defensive stand away from reaching last year’s College Football Playoff, were just 5-4 after Penn State routed them, 41-14, on Nov. 5. A loss to FCS powerhouse North Dakota State was included in that stretch, and the victories were against middling foes Miami (OH), Iowa State, Rutgers, Minnesota and Purdue.
But Iowa has been a different team since mid-November. It shocked then-No. 2 Michigan, 14-13, on Keith Duncan’s 33-yard field goal as time expired Nov. 12, then dominated Illinois, 28-0, the following week. The Hawkeyes concluded the regular season with a 40-10 thrashing of then-No. 17 Nebraska, as Daniels and Wadley combined for 263 yards and three touchdowns.
Can Iowa stay hot against the Gators?
New Outback Bowl record
Florida and Iowa each will be playing in their sixth Outback Bowl, which sets a new record for most appearances. They have played each other twice, with Iowa winning, 37-17, to cap the 2003 season and Florida earning a 31-24 victory two years later.