Iowa Hawkeyes (7-5) vs. Oklahoma Sooners (9-3)
Dec. 30, 1o p.m. ET (ESPN)
Iowa take by Big Ten blogger Adam Rittenberg: Iowa football hasn’t had much go its way in the past 11 months aside from a dramatic victory against Missouri in the 2010 Insight Bowl. The Hawkeyes will return to Tempe, Ariz., later this month looking for another boost after an up-and-down 2011 campaign.
Kirk Ferentz’s teams typically save their best for the postseason, as Iowa is 6-3 in bowls during his tenure as coach, including victories in each of the past three years (2010 Insight, 2010 Orange, 2009 Outback). But extending the win streak will be tough against Oklahoma, the preseason No. 1 team. Both teams struggled down the stretch, each dropping two of the final three games.
Iowa is led by its big three on offense: receiver Marvin McNutt, running back Marcus Coker and quarterback James Vandenberg. Coker burst on the scene as a freshman at the 2010 Insight Bowl, setting an Iowa bowl record with 219 rushing yards. McNutt also has been fabulous, while Vandenberg struggled away from Kinnick Stadium but can put up big numbers.
The Hawkeyes' defense was in rebuilding mode for most of the season, as the NFL losses along the defensive line and at safety stung. Oklahoma isn’t nearly as dangerous on offense without star receiver Ryan Broyles, who is out for the season with a knee injury. But Iowa can’t let Landry Jones settle into a rhythm and must pressure the Sooners junior quarterback.
Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops faces his alma mater in Iowa, which goes up against the Sooners for just the second time after dropping a 1979 game in Norman.
Injuries played a huge role. That's undeniable, but this season, with the expectations that came with it, is nothing but a disappointment. The Sooners suffered two losses after losing Broyles and Dominique Whaley. Blake Bell's Tebow-esque "BellDozer" formation was pretty effective late in the season, but Oklahoma is bested only by Texas A&M as the Big 12's most disappointing team.