FedEx Orange Bowl: Iowa (10-2) vs. Georgia Tech (11-2)
Jan. 5, 8 p.m., (FOX)
Nothing came easily for Iowa this season, even the team's BCS at-large berth.
Hawkeyes fans had to sweat it out Sunday night and hope bowl selection committees prioritized what had happened on the field ahead of outside factors in their final decisions. Because between the lines, Iowa was a heck of a football team this fall. And it gets one final chance to silence its critics against ACC champion Georgia Tech in the FedEx Orange Bowl.
Kirk Ferentz's team will get a big boost for the bowl as quarterback Ricky Stanzi returns from a severe right ankle sprain. Stanzi drives fans nuts with interceptions, but he's a tremendous clutch player and instills confidence in everyone around him. Stanzi and big-play wideouts Marvin McNutt and Derrell Johnson-Koulianos face a Georgia Tech defense that can be gashed.
The big question Jan. 5 will be how Iowa's fundamentally sound defense handles Jonathan Dwyer, Josh Nesbitt and Georgia Tech's triple-option offense, which ranks second nationally in rushing (307.2 ypg) and 11th in scoring (35.3 ppg). Iowa boasts an excellent defensive front seven, led by linebacker Pat Angerer and ends Adrian Clayborn and Broderick Binns. Those defenders need to be at their best against the Ramblin' Wreck.
Iowa returns to the Orange Bowl for the first time since 2003, when it got crushed by USC. The Hawkeyes never have faced Georgia Tech.