Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Outback Bowl Preview

South Carolina (7-5) vs Iowa (8-4)
Outback Bowl
Tampa, FL
January 1, 10:00 AM
All Time Series: First Meeting
All Time Bowl Records: South Carolina 4-9, Iowa 11-10-1
Tuesday’s Line: Iowa -4

Total Offense, Scoring Offense (National Rank):
Iowa: 373.9 ypg (52nd), 30.3 ppg (34th)
South Carolina: 316.8 ypg (97th), 21.7 ppg (92nd)

Total Defense, Scoring Defense (National Rank):
Iowa: 289.5 ypg (13th), 13.3 ppg (8th)
South Carolina: 288.9 ypg (12th), 20.3 ppg (30th)

Two teams headed in opposite directions clash Thursday morning in the 2009 Outback Bowl. The Gamecocks limp in to the game having lost 3 of 5 and mustering just 20 points the last two games. Iowa has won 5 of 6, including handing Penn State its only loss of the season. With both teams featuring stout defenses, this could be one of the harder-hitting, lower scoring games of the Bowl season.

South Carolina has enjoyed success in the Outback Bowl over the years, smacking down the hapless Buckeyes in both 2001 and 2002. Though Spurrier is just 7-7 in bowl games all time, he’s 4-1 against the Big 10, as he’s typically had the team speed that our neighbors to the North so sorely lack. Unfortunately, that’s not the case this year. While there’s certainly defensive talent and some speed at the WR position, inconsistent QB play combined with no running game landed the Gamecocks here instead of a big bowl.

Another blow for the Gamecocks is that they’ll be without their leading tackler and arguably their most important defender S Emmanuel Cook, who is academically ineligible for the game. With Iowa’s offense featuring (an undeserved) Doak Walker Award winner in Shonn Greene, Cook’s leadership and run-stuffing talents will be missed.

Iowa has been in every game it’s played this season, losing 4 games by a combined 12 points. While the running game has been consistent all season, the passing game has been steady lately as QB Ricky Stanzi threw for nearly 1000 yards and had an 8/3 TD/INT ratio over the last 6 weeks. He’ll certainly be tested against South Carolina’s 3rd rank pass defense, which gives up just passing 160.3 ypg, though that’s with Cook playing.

This is the third bowl game in a row to open bowl season where it’s just not a favorable matchup for the SEC team. The Gamecocks will struggle to maintain any sort of drives against Iowa’s stout defense, particularly with zero production from their RBs. While the SC defense should bottle up the Hawkeyes early, Iowa will continue to pound the ball and eventually Greene will break a big run.

I can’t find a legitimate reason to pick South Carolina to win this one. Aside from the season opener against NCSt and the offensive explosion in Oxford, this has been a mediocre team all season. The Gamecocks haven’t been able to do much on the ground all season, and it won’t magically start Thursday. While I don’t see the blowout or domination that many are predicting, I also don’t see the Gamecocks pulling the upset.

Iowa 17, South Carolina 13

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