By Sam Kienzle
After the national college football bowl announcements Sunday night, the Iowa Hawkeye football team learned it would play the Oklahoma Sooners (#14 BCS, #19 AP) in the Insight Bowl in Tempe, Arizona. The December 30th bout will mark the second straight appearance for Iowa in the Insight Bowl, where last year it defeated #12 Missouri, 27-24.
Oklahoma (9-3), the one-time #1 team in the country, comes into the bowl game having bowed out in their last game of the season, drifting away 44-10 to #3 Oklahoma State and handing the Big 12 championship to their cross-state rivals. Despite being held to ten points, the Sooners still average 40.3 points per game and are lead by quarterback Landry Jones (4,302 passing yards, 28 touchdowns). Jones averages 365 passing yards per game, which is 4th nationally. While Iowa played in and won the Insight Bowl last year, Oklahoma went 12-2 and beat Connecticut as Big 12 champions. Oklahoma is lead by head coach Bob Stoops, a former Rose Bowl defensive back for Iowa in 1981.
Iowa (7-5), meanwhile, should feel sensational knowing the caliber of opponent that awaits in Tempe. The Hawkeyes had an up-and-down year, beating Sugar Bowl-bound Michigan (10-2) for the third year in a row while losing to rebuilding Minnesota on the road and Legends division champion Michigan State at home in ugly fashion. A season that saw Iowa’s greatest-ever comeback (31-27 win over Pitt while down 24-3) also unveiled frustrating offensive games against Penn State and Nebraska. Iowa was outrun and outgunned in their loss to the Cornhuskers to close the season, losing 20-7 to finish 7-5 and 4-4 in the Big Ten.
Iowa’s opponent in their consecutive Insight Bowl seems eerily similar to the first one the second time around. Like Missouri, Oklahoma is a mid top-25 ranked team playing in a bowl they would probably rather watch in their hotel room waiting for a BCS game. Much like Missouri, Oklahoma throws for a ton of yards, scores a lot of points, and just like last year, everyone will pick the yard-eating Big 12 team over the rigid Iowa Hawkeyes. Iowa beat a Missouri team last year that had knocked off the #1 Sooners midway through the season, yet Iowa still came out victorious over the Tigers. This year, Iowa’s defense is a sieve and will be vulnerable to OU’s speed and athleticism, but Iowa’s offense matches well with Oklahoma’s defense if it can get hot. Iowa, once again, will be the little guy. And like last year, they will play better than you imagined. We will continue to break down this game in the coming weeks, so stay tuned!
Meet your typical Oklahoma Sooner fan…
Big Ten 2011 Bowl Participants and Opponents (and Sam Kienzle’s insta-grades)
Little Caesars Pizza Bowl: Purdue (6-6) vs. Western Michigan (7-5)
Comment: Purdue doesn’t mind that this bowl is cold (Detroit) and lowly. The Boilermakers are looking forward to trying to stop Western Michigan’s high-class offense. Danny Hope runs to toilet at halftime after ingesting Little Caesars pizza.
Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas: Northwestern (6-6) vs. Texas A&M (6-6)
Comment: Northwestern has a great shot of winning its first bowl game in more than 60 years when it faces the disappointing Aggies of Texas A&M.
Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl: Illinois (6-6) vs. UCLA (6-7)
Comment: This could be considered the worst bowl of ALL BOWLS for a number of reasons. Illinois started the year 6-0 before losing the rest of their games. UCLA got bullied in the Pac-12 championship game and has a losing record. The teams are a combined 12-13, playing in a bowl. I believe teams should get to 7-5 to be bowl eligible, and now teams with losing records are being rewarded for their substandard play.
TicketCity Bowl: Penn State (9-3) vs. Houston (12-1)
Comment: With the Jerry Sandusky scandal raging, Penn State fell to a less prestigious bowl against a very good Houston team that nearly made it to a BCS game. Penn State has a great defense, and Houston has a great offense. The resulting stew is entertainment.
Outback Bowl: Michigan State (10-3) vs. Georgia (10-3)
Comment: Michigan State was a near Big Ten champion, they showed that against Wisconsin. They have a great defense, while Kirk Cousins and his wide receivers are playing at a high level. They will look for Mark Dantonio’s first bowl win as Michigan State’s head coach.
Capital One Bowl: Nebraska (9-3) vs. South Carolina (10-2)
Comment: This game isn’t that interesting to me. Nebraska’s offense is a grinding, slogging, sloppy unit. South Carolina doesn’t do very well in bowls. When the Gamecocks lost Marcus Lattimore earlier this year, who did they become? We shall find out.
Gator Bowl: Ohio State (6-6) vs. Florida (6-6)
Comment: Once upon a time these two teams faced off for the national championship. Now, it’s an in-between time as Florida’s “retired” coach, Urban Meyer, becomes Ohio State’s new coach.
Rose Bowl Game: Wisconsin (11-2) vs. Oregon (11-2)
Comment: Wisconsin gets back to the Rose Bowl for a consecutive year and this time wants to finish the job. Oregon wants to win its first bowl game under head coach Chip Kelly. It’s the “smooth as I-Can’t-Believe-It’s-Not-Butter spread” offense of Oregon against the power rushing and high efficiency of Wisconsin and quarterback Russell Wilson.
Sugar Bowl: Michigan (10-2) vs. Virginia Tech (11-2)
Comment: Michigan is, frankly, lucky to get into a BCS game. Nonetheless, it will be an entertaining game as they face ACC title game loser Virginia Tech. Michigan State probably deserved this more than Michigan, but sponsors don’t like selecting teams coming off losses–and Michigan’s brand is still strong.