Missouri Tigers (10-2) vs. Iowa Hawkeyes (7-5)
Dec. 28, 10 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Missouri take by Big 12 blogger David Ubben: Missouri didn’t get passed over by the bowl committees this time. After three consecutive years of what the Tigers perceived as bowl snubs -- including the Insight Bowl taking 6-6 Iowa State over the 8-4 Tigers in 2009 -- Missouri got the nod from the folks at the Insight over Big 12 runner-up Nebraska.
That prevented a preview of the new Big Ten, and instead, the Tigers will take on Big Ten opponent Iowa. Missouri ended its season with a win over bordering Kansas, and will continue against its neighbors to the north, the Hawkeyes.
Midway through the season, Missouri looked like it might be making a beeline for the BCS, sitting at 7-1 and favored in its final four games. The Tigers stumbled, following a loss to Nebraska with another at Texas Tech, but rebounded to win its final three games and finish at 10-2 for the program’s third 10-win season in four years, bringing the program to its fourth such season ever.
Iowa’s Ricky Stanzi will provide a tough test for Missouri’s much-improved defense, coordinated by Dave Steckel.
The Hawkeyes return to the state of Arizona, where on Sept. 18 they dropped the first of five games in a disappointing 2010 campaign. They also get a chance to send out a strong senior class with a victory after dropping three straight contests to end the regular season. It certainly doesn’t hurt that Iowa takes on Missouri, a team the Hawkeyes tried to schedule several years ago before an agreement fell apart.
There’s no love lost between Iowa fans and Missouri fans, and while most of Hawkeye Nation was hoping for a bowl matchup against a team from another bordering state, this contest still carries some intrigue. Iowa has won back-to-back bowl games (Orange, Outback) and coach Kirk Ferentz brings a 5-3 record in postseason play to the desert.
Although Iowa’s defense must contain Missouri quarterback Blaine Gabbert, the bigger concern for the Hawkeyes might be putting up points of their own. Missouri ranks sixth nationally in both fewest points allowed (15.2 ppg) and sacks (3.1 per game), and the Tigers will test an Iowa offensive line that has endured some ups and downs.
Stanzi had Heisman-like numbers through the first two months of the season before struggling in November. Like the rest of his Iowa teammates, Stanzi gets one final chance to get things right.