Monday, January 4, 2010
FedEx Orange Bowl preview
By ESPN.com staff
Here's a quick look at the final Big Ten bowl game, as No. 10 Iowa (10-2) takes on No. 9 Georgia Tech (11-2) on Tuesday night in the FedEx Orange Bowl.
WHO TO WATCH: Iowa quarterback Ricky Stanzi. He hasn't played a meaningful down since Nov. 7, but his presence should provide a major boost for the Hawkeyes' offense. Despite Stanzi's ups and downs, Iowa never lost a game that he finished and mounted several amazing comebacks with No. 12 calling signals. Stanzi needs to avoid star pass-rusher Derrick Morgan, but he faces a Georgia Tech defense that isn't anything special. Iowa certainly needs to run the ball to win this game, but Stanzi also bolsters an effective downfield passing attack with wideouts Marvin McNutt and Derrell Johnson-Koulianos. The junior must limit turnovers and try to avoid a slow start, which plagued him most of the season.
WHAT TO WATCH: Iowa defensive coordinator Norm Parker matching wits with Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson. These are two coaching veterans who have done things their own way forever and enjoyed excellent success. Parker has been instrumental in Iowa's season, but will have his hands full with Johnson's tricky triple-option offense. This matchup pairs an Iowa defense known for sound fundamentals and cohesion against a Georgia Tech offense that tests those exact principles. Parker will have his defenders prepared for the Yellow Jackets, but Iowa can't let Jonathan Dwyer or Josh Nesbitt get into the open field.
WHY TO WATCH: The Big Ten's bowl record stands at 3-3, so Iowa's outcome will go a long way toward shaping national perception about the league. A 2-0 mark in BCS bowls to go along with wins in the Capital One and Champs Sports Bowl would cement a very solid bowl season for the Big Ten. A Hawkeyes loss drops the Big Ten below .500 in bowls for the fifth consecutive season. Iowa also has been the most exciting team to watch in the Big Ten this year, with eight come-from-behind victories and several unforgettable finishes. Stanzi's return to the lineup will be fascinating to watch. He could implode for three picks or lead Iowa to another fourth-quarter comeback. Or both!
PREDICTION: Iowa has been underestimated all season and undoubtedly will be overlooked again by most of the country. Georgia Tech has the sexy offense and the NFL prospects, but the Hawkeyes are a special team this year. And with a month to prepare for the triple option, Parker's defense will be ready. Iowa falls behind (no surprise) but rallies behind Stanzi in the fourth quarter to beat Georgia Tech, 28-27.