Big Ten Bowl Preview: Outback Bowl

On January 2, the Iowa Hawkeyes and Florida Gators will do battle in the Outback Bowl.

The Big Ten bowl season is starting to wind down. However, one of the conference’s remaining bowl games is the Outback Bowl. And the Outback Bowl might prove to be the lowest scoring of any Big Ten games this bowl season.

Game: Outback Bowl
Teams: Iowa Hawkeyes (8-4, 6-3 Big Ten) vs. #17 Florida Gators (8-4, 6-2 SEC) 
January 2, 1:00 PM
Location: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa Bay, Florida

Monday’s Outback Bowl will feature two teams with strong defenses and offenses that have had their fair share of struggles. One year after winning the Big Ten West, the Iowa Hawkeyes finished second in the division this season.

As for the Florida Gators, they are coming off a regular season in which they won their second consecutive SEC East division title. However, for a second consecutive season, they were blown out by the Alabama Crimson Tide in the SEC Championship game.

Over the final three weeks of the regular season the Iowa Hawkeyes were as hot as any team in the Big Ten. After coming to Happy Valley and getting shellacked by the Nittany Lions, Iowa finished the regular season on a three game winning streak. And this winning streak included a 14-13 upset victory over then third-ranked Michigan, and a 40-10 road victory over then 16th-ranked Nebraska.

As for Florida, they are coming off of back-to-back losses. In these two losses the Gators have been outscored 85-29 by Florida State and Alabama. So entering the Outback Bowl these are two teams trending in opposite directions.

Both teams are led by their strong defensive units. Iowa ranks 24th in the FBS is total defense (353 yards per game) and they are tied for 10th in the FBS in scoring defense allowing just 17.9 points per game.

Who are the Hawkeyes tied with for 10th in the FBS in scoring defense? Well, the Florida Gators of course! To go along with their strong scoring defense the Gators rank 6th in the FBS in total defense allowing just 299 yards per game.

Iowa’s defense is led by senior defensive back Desmond King. He won the Jim Thorpe Award in 2015, and is one of the best all-around players in the entire FBS. To go along with being a great defensive back, King is also an electric return man. And his return ability could prove to be critical in what is sure to be a defensive struggle.

Neither the Hawkeyes nor the Gators are very good offensively. Iowa ranks 120th in the FBS in total yards per game (333) and 78th in points per game (26.8). Meanwhile, the Gators rank 116th in the FBS in yards per game (345) and 109th in points per game (23.4).

Both Iowa and Florida struggle on offense. Additionally, both teams are very good on defense. Due to this combination, I expect the Outback Bowl to be a low scoring defensive battle.

The turnover battle will be very important in this game. Special teams will be as well, and, due to Desmond King, Iowa has the advantage in special teams in my opinion. I believe this game will be won on a turnover or a big special teams play.

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