<
>

On the spot: Insight Bowl

12/16/2010

Missouri's headed to the Insight Bowl, the program's sixth consecutive postseason trip under coach Gary Pinkel.

Iowa carries a three-game losing streak into its matchup with the Tigers, but the Hawkeyes will be a different kind of challenge than Missouri has seen all season. So, who needs to play well for the Tigers to get the win?

The offensive line. Suspensions and transfers have Iowa playing without its leading receiver and its two best running backs, but the Hawkeyes have a defense capable of shutting down Missouri's offense. Specifically, it can do it on the defensive line.

Although Iowa finished the season at 2-3, it was giving up just over 17 points a game during that stretch. Adrian Clayborn headlines the defensive line, but fellow linemen Karl Klug and Mike Daniels both had more tackles for loss. The trio combined for 29 TFLs and Iowa ranks sixth nationally in rush defense, giving up just over 100 yards a game.

Missouri's offense can look pretty smooth when it gets its running game rolling, but a one-dimensional Tigers offense with Blaine Gabbert throwing the ball 40-plus times isn't nearly as effective.

The Hawkeyes ranked just 55th nationally against the pass, but the Tigers cannot live on the pass alone. All-Big 12 center Tim Barnes leads a very experienced unit flanked with a pair of experienced tackles in Dan Hoch and Elvis Fisher and guards Jayson Palmgren and Austin Wuebbels. They'll need to pave the way or Missouri's undersized set of backs, De'Vion Moore, Kendial Lawrence, Henry Josey and Marcus Murphy.

Iowa isn't likely to make many big plays offensively, but if Gabbert takes a free shot to his blind side for a costly fumble or is hasseled into mistakes, the Tigers could give up that big play to the defensive line.

Keep them at bay with a steady diet of screen passes and jet sweeps, and Missouri could win its third bowl game in four years.