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Jan. 1, 11 a.m. (ESPN)
Iowa take by Big Ten blogger Adam Rittenberg: Back on Oct. 4, a New Year's Day bowl appearance seemed impossible for Iowa.
The Hawkeyes were 3-3, hopeless in close games and still transitioning at the quarterback position. Head coach Kirk Ferentz was on the hot seat, and his coordinators were under fire.
But Iowa started to figure it out at Indiana on Oct. 11, and the Hawkeyes won five of their final six games, including a potentially program-changing upset of Penn State. They've been rewarded with an Outback Bowl appearance against a very beatable South Carolina team.
Hawkeyes junior running back Shonn Greene has been unstoppable so far, and he aims for his 13th consecutive 100-yard rushing game against the nation's No. 11 defense. South Carolina did a decent job against Georgia's Knowshon Moreno on Sept. 13 but struggled down the stretch. Iowa quarterback Ricky Stanzi will be challenged by a talented Gamecocks secondary, so the burden once again will be on Greene.
Iowa ranks a spot below South Carolina in total defense, and the Hawkeyes held eight teams to 17 points or fewer. South Carolina doesn't run the ball well at all, and Iowa will need to put pressure on quarterback Chris Smelley. The Gamecocks rank 114th nationally in sacks allowed.
South Carolina take by SEC blogger Chris Low: He last coached Florida back in 2001, but Steve Spurrier is still a hot item in the Sunshine State.
His draw was evidently enough to get South Carolina (7-5) to the Outback Bowl to face Iowa on Jan. 1 even though the Gamecocks played some of their worst football in the final few weeks of the regular season.
In their last two games, the Gamecocks were outscored 87-20 by Florida and Clemson and looked like a team that was going nowhere fast offensively. The root of the problem is that Spurrier isn't sold on any of the quarterbacks on campus.
He played musical quarterbacks with Chris Smelley and Stephen Garcia most of the season, but Garcia will get first crack at Iowa in Tampa.
The Hawkeyes (8-4) came on to win five of their last six games to close the season. Their only loss in that stretch was a three-point decision to Illinois.
South Carolina's defense has been rock-solid most of the season under first-year coordinator Ellis Johnson, but will have its hands full with Iowa's Shonn Greene, who's rushed for 1,729 yards and 17 touchdowns. The Gamecocks are ranked 11th nationally in total defense.