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Tuesday, January 5, 2010
FedEx Orange Bowl keys: Iowa

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

No Big Ten team has waited longer for its bowl game than Iowa, which finally hits the field tonight against No. 9 Georgia Tech in the FedEx Orange Bowl (Fox, 8 p.m. ET).

Here are three keys for the Hawkeyes in the game:

1. Run the ball well on first down to take pressure off of Stanzi: It's time for Iowa's offensive line to rise to the challenge. The Hawkeyes can keep Georgia Tech's offense off of the field by effectively running the ball to set up the play-action pass to Marvin McNutt and Derrell Johnson-Koulianos. Iowa has been one of the nation's worst first-down rushing teams, but if it gets into manageable second and third downs, it can do quarterback Ricky Stanzi a big favor. Stanzi struggled with slow starts even when he was playing every week, so he can use all the help he can get from the run game because he hasn't played since Nov. 7.

2. Strong performances from the defensive tackles: The defenses that have the best success against the triple option receive big plays from the big guys inside. Iowa defensive tackles Karl Klug and Christian Ballard aren't huge space eaters, but they move very well and can generate push off of the line. Klug and Ballard need to take away the lanes between the tackles and force Georgia Tech quarterback Josh Nesbitt into some quick decisions. All of Iowa's defensive linemen need to shed blocks and prevent Nesbitt and Jonathan Dwyer from getting into the secondary.

3. Own the fourth quarter: The final 15 minutes has been Iowa's time to shine this season. Stanzi is at his best down the stretch, and the Hawkeyes' downfield passing attack usually comes to life in crunch time. Iowa needs to avoid a slow start, as Georgia Tech could grab the lead and kill the clock with its offense. But if Iowa has a chance down the stretch, you have to like the Hawkeyes' chances. They've outscored opponents 114-55 in the fourth quarter this season. Georgia Tech isn't too shabby in the fourth quarter, either, outscoring foes 109-83.