NCF Nation: 2010 Insight Bowl 3 keys

Insight Bowl keys

December, 28, 2010
Here are three keys for Iowa heading into Tuesday night's Insight Bowl matchup against Missouri:

Pressure Blaine Gabbert: Iowa doesn't have enough firepower to keep up with Missouri in a shootout. The Hawkeyes need their veteran defensive line to get in Gabbert's face all game long. They're tied for third in the Big Ten with 20 sacks and will look for big performances from end Adrian Clayborn and others. If Gabbert has time to throw, Iowa will be in big trouble.

Establish some type of run game: This won't be easy without Adam Robinson, as true freshman Marcus Coker looks like Iowa's only option in the run game. But the Hawkeyes don't want to put Ricky Stanzi in too many obvious passing situations against Missouri's speedy pass rushers. Iowa averaged just 91 rush yards in its final three games and will need to find some gaps in the Tigers' defense to set up the play-action pass.

Avoid special teams miscues: Of all the shocking things out of Iowa's season, the mistakes in the kicking game might be at the top of the list. Iowa simply can't afford breakdowns in this game, especially with a shorthanded offense. Missouri boasts strong specialists but isn't strong in the return game. The Hawkeyes will miss Derrell Johnson-Koulianos on kickoff returns.

Insight Bowl: Three keys for Missouri

December, 27, 2010
1. Take care of the football. It sounds obvious, but Iowa's offense doesn't look like a unit capable of stringing together 80-yard drives with any kind of consistency. The Hawkeyes are playing without leading receiver Derrell Johnson-Koulianos and leading rusher Adam Robinson. If the Tigers hand the ball over to the Hawkeyes on the Missouri side of the field, playing through those losses becomes a lot easier very quickly. The good news for Missouri is the Tigers have turned the ball over just 16 times in 12 games this season, tied for fewest in the Big 12 with Oklahoma and tied for 15th fewest in the country. Who has the fewest? Iowa, of course. The Hawkeyes have just nine turnovers, tied with Big Ten champion Wisconsin.

2. Establish the screen game with T.J. Moe and Michael Egnew. Missouri has had success doing it more often than not in 2010, but it'll be especially important against a stingy Iowa defense that ranks sixth nationally against the run and 54th against the pass. The Tigers flip it to the edge to Moe and Egnew often as an extension of their running game. Doing so should soften up the middle for the Tigers and allow some double teams on the Iowa defensive line. The screen also gets the ball out of quarterback Blaine Gabbert's hands quickly and minimizes Iowa's biggest asset -- that defensive line. The more five and seven-step drops Gabbert has to take -- be it on third-and-long or otherwise -- the more impact that front four can have.

3. Score early. Iowa's offense ranks just 61st nationally in total offense, and isn't built for big points. The Hawkeyes have scored 20 points just once -- against Indiana -- in their past four games. If Missouri goes up 14-0 in the first quarter or early in the second quarter, you may see a group of inexperienced players around Ricky Stanzi trying to make the big play, or Stanzi himself forcing a few passes. Missouri can comfortably beat Iowa if the Tigers can convince the Hawkeyes that will it take 30 points or more to win. But if Iowa can control the line of scrimmage early and limit the winning score to only 20 points, then the Hawkeyes can take the game.