Iowa vs. Florida, 1/2/17 - Expert Prediction
Written by: Nikhil Kalro
Iowa Hawkeyes (8-4, 6-6 ATS) vs Florida Gators (8-4, 4-7 ATS)
Outback Bowl: Monday, January 2 at 1.00 PM ET, Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, Florida
The Line: Florida Gators -2.5
The Iowa Hawkeyes and the Florida Gators meet in the Outback Bowl for the third time in 13 years. These two sides met in 2004 and in 2006, splitting the two games. The Gators finished the regular season 8-4 and were blown away in the SEC Championship game by No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide. The Iowa Hawkeyes also finished 8-4 and hammered the Nebraska Cornhuskers 40-10.
Running prowess key to Hawkeyes’ game?
The Iowa Hawkeyes’ stifling defense helped them overcome the Nebraksa Cornhuskers, giving them a tough defensive matchup against the Gators in the Outback bowl. The Hawkeyes conceded just 46 points in their last five games of regular season, 23 in the last three, all wins. Their latest victims were the Cornhuskers in a 40-10 rout.
LeShun Daniels and Akrum Wadley were the protagonists of the Hawkeyes’ middling offensive unit, combining for over 2000 yards with 10 touchdowns each. QB CJ Beathard ranked 13th in the Big Ten in yards per game, finishing the season with 1874 yards and 17 touchdowns. Desmond King has been the Big Ten’s best kick returner this season.
What can the Hawkeyes depend on? Their defense, of course, which concedes just 17.9 points per game, 10th in the county. Their running game is solid – going for 171.9 yards per game. But they also average just 161.3 yards in the air.
Gators bank on defense
The No. 17 Florida Gators are not coming into the Bowl game with a lot of confidence. They’ve lost two straight, including a thrashing at the hands of No. 1 Alabama. With his injury, the availability of QB Luke Del Rio is under the scanner. Their offense is woeful, at best. Austin Appleby started the SEC Championship game but also threw three interceptions. A lot is going against the Gators.
RB Jordan Scarlett, though, has shown some resilience in the Gators offense. He has gained 795 yards on 165 carries with six touchdowns. Their defense has been superb through the season: conceding just 17.9 points per game. Incidentally, they’re tied with the Hawkeyes at No. 10 in defense this season. They allow just 156.3 passing yards per game, the third best passing defense in the country. They score just 23.3 points per game, 114th in the country. And have one of the worst rushing offenses in the league, averaging just 129.8 yards per game.
- 1-4-1 ATS last 6 neutral site games.
- 5-2 ATS last 7 bowl games.
- 5-1 ATS last 6 bowl games as a favorite.
It’s going to be a fascinating Outback Bowl as these two teams finish their seasons. Who has the better defense? Who has the better passing offense? The Hawkeyes have the edge in coaching experience with Kirk Ferentz. The Gators, though, have the better defensive unit. This will be a low-scorer, with the Gators’ pass defense standing up again. I’m going for the Gators to cover the spread on this one.
The Pick: Florida Gators -2.5
Florida could be a bit more explosive if Del Rio plays. That defense is pretty special as they allow just 298.6 yard per game overall and 17.9 points per game. That defense was also embarrassed by Alabama and Florida State. Fortunately, Iowa does not have the athletes that Alabama or Florida State possesses. Florida is 12-2 Under last 14 as a favorite, while Iowa is 8-3 Under last 11 neutral site games. Expect a very low-scoring game.
Total: Under 40.5
Nikhil has been working with ESPN since the age of 18 and covers cricket for their website ESPNcricinfo. When not writing or editing news, game reports, commentary and analysis stories, he is following American sports. A love for stats and patterns, research and results and plain simple learning with a few years of handicapping experience makes him almost 0.500 reliable. A degree in business administration and a keen eye for volatile industries like the stock market help too.
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