Insight Bowl Picks: Missouri Tigers vs. Iowa Hawkeyes Analysis

Last Updated: December 27th, 2010 by Adam Markowitz (Bankroll Sports Columnist)
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Former Top 10 teams will face off in the Insight Bowl on Tuesday night at Sun Devil Stadium in one of the most intriguing bowl games of the season. The Missouri Tigers still have a chance to finish this year in the Top 10 in the nation, but the Iowa Hawkeyes are just trying to end the season with a flurry after losing a number of games on the campaign down the stretch. Which team will you make your college football picks with on Tuesday night? Don’t be shocked if these three keys turn out to be the difference maker one way or the other.

Key #1: The Hawkeyes need to believe that they can win even without a pair of their offensive stars
As we mentioned earlier, Iowa got into the Top 10 in the nation as early as Week 2 this year, but a 34-27 loss to the Arizona Wildcats ended those dreams. Still, the Hawkeyes were ranked as the highest one loss team in the country for awhile, then were one of the highest two loss teams after losing by a point to the Wisconsin Badgers, and then they were the highest ranked three loss team in the land after losing to the Northwestern Wildcats. However, at that point, the wheels really fell off. The Hawkeyes were downed by the Ohio State Buckeyes and Minnesota Golden Gophers to end the campaign to drop out of the Top 25. To make matters worse now, they lost the services of leading rusher RB Adam Robinson and WR Derrell Johnson-Koulianos to suspension for the Insight Bowl. There really aren’t a ton of tremendous athletes for the Hawkeyes to count on at this point, but QB Ricky Stanzi is one of the best signal callers in the history of this school. This is a man that had not lost a game as a starter until that duel in the desert earlier this year, and he has found a way to overcome all sorts of odds. Head Coach Kirk Ferentz is one of the best in the nation, and he is always on the NFL short lists for jobs, though he has never left Iowa. If the Hawkeyes buy into their head coach and their scheme in spite of their losses at the end of the season, they’ll be able to stick around with one of the best teams in the nation.

Insight Bowl Odds at JustBet
Missouri Tigers -2.5
Iowa Hawkeyes +2.5
Over/Under 46.5
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Key #2: Missouri’s defense has to stay strong in one of its toughest games of the season
When you think of the Tigers, you think of a team that really loves to go aerial and put a lot of points on the board, and though this has been the case for several years, the difference that made Missouri a legitimate BCS Championship contender for a good chunk of the season was a defense that kept teams to just 15.2 points per game, good enough to rank No. 6 in the land. There were five teams kept to single digits this year, including in each of the last two games of the season. One of those four came against the Texas A&M Aggies, who ended up with a better bowl bid in the Cotton Bowl than the Tigers. Mizzou ended up beating six bowl teams this year, more than most in the country, and certainly more than many in the Big XII. There wasn’t a team that scored more than 31 points this year against the Tigers, and that includes the high flying Oklahoma Sooners and the surging San Diego State Aztecs. This wasn’t always a fantastic team in terms of total yards this year, averaging allowing 346.9 yards per game, but there is no doubt that this is a team that knows how to bend, but not break. Iowa’s offense is a lot more efficient than its numbers suggest, but this is certainly going to be a tremendous challenge against one of the best units in the Big XII.

Key #3: Blaine Gabbert needs to look like a pro in the face of a stout defense
We already mentioned that the Tigers are used to throwing the ball all over the place, and that really wasn’t an exception this year. There wasn’t a man that had 100 carries this year for Mizzou, while Gabbert threw the pigskin 418 times. However, for a player that was supposed to at least be an outside contender for the Heisman Trophy this year, Gabbert just didn’t put together the numbers necessary. He threw for just 2,752 yards and 15 TDs, a far cry from his 3,593 yards and 24 scores on the year in 2009. WR TJ Moe and WR Michael Egnew were the top two targets for this team, as the two combined for 160 receptions and 1,591 yards with ten of the team’s 16 passing TDs for the year. Iowa’s defense has a ton of potential NFL stars on it, but it really isn’t all that deep. Still, these Hawkeyes allowed just 312.5 yards and 16.4 points per game in the Big Ten, one of the more surprising offensive conferences in the nation this year.

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Posted in College Football - Last Updated on Monday, December 27th, 2010 @ 6:53 pm (EST)
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