College Football Bowl Preview: Orange Bowl

The SportmeistersAnalyst IJanuary 3, 2010

STATE COLLEGE, PA - SEPTEMBER 26:  Ricky Stanzi #12 of the Iowa Hawkeyes throws a pass while playing the Penn State Nittnay Lions on September 26, 2009 at Beaver Stadium in State College, Pennsylvania. Iowa won the game 21-10. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

By Ryan of The Sportmeisters

The NCAA post-season kicked off December 19th with 34 games being played in a three week span.

The Sportmeisters are previewing each of the bowl games, and providing our predictions as well. Let’s get to it!

Orange Bowl, January 5th, 8:00 PM, Miami, FL

No. 9 Georgia Tech (11-2) vs. No. 10 Iowa (10-2)

About Georgia Tech : The Yellow Jackets caught fire this season, winning ten of their first eleven, including a huge ACC Coastal showdown against Virginia Tech. They slipped up, losing their rivalry game to Georgia, but bounced back in the ACC Championship, downing Clemson for the second time this season to clinch the ACC’s BCS automatic berth.

Is there any doubt what Georgia Tech is good at? Behind former Navy Coach Paul Johnson, the Yellow Jackets reeled off the second best rushing attack of 2009 (307.15 yards per game). Despite opponents knowing that they are not going to pass (135.54 yards per game), they can’t stop the triple option. The misdirectional rushing attack is directly responsible for Georgia Tech being 11th in total offense (442.69 yards per game) and 12th in scoring offense (35.31 points per game).

The amazing rushing attack starts with RB Jonathon Dwyer, who recorded 1346 yards and 14 touchdowns as the primary option on the ground. QB Josh Nesbitt, the centerpiece of the offense, picked up 991 yards and 18 touchdowns on the ground, and when he did throw, he contributed 1689 yards and 10 touchdowns. WR Demaryius Thomas has over 1,000 yards in his own right, catching 46 balls for 1154 receiving yards and eight touchdowns.

For all the good the offense has done, the defense is a little more down to earth. They give up a lot of yards (357 per game) and a good deal of points (24.85 a game), making a good number of their games shootouts.

Junior LB Brad Jefferson is one of the leaders, with 90 tackles (eight for loss). Senior DE Derrick Morgan has more sacks (12.5) than the rest of his team (10.5), to go along with his 52 tackles (18 for loss). Junior CB Morgan Burnett contributed 77 tackles and four interceptions. Georgia Tech can hold a team when they want to, but more often than not, it’s an offensive showcase.

About Iowa : The Hawkeyes were a hot team to start the season, winning nine in a row to develop some legitimate national championship talk. That, and the Big Ten title, all went away as Iowa stumbled to the finish line, losing two of their final three, first to Northwestern and then to Ohio State. They did grab an At-Large bid to allow them a spot in a BCS Bowl.

Iowa is not a good offensive program, ranking 103rd in the run (109.42 yards per game) and 93rd overall (330.75 yards per game). Their lone bright spot is QB Ricky Stanzi, who should be close to 100% after missing two games with injury. He finished with 2186 yards and 15 touchdowns, but also 14 interceptions. Top WR targets Derrell Johnson-Koulianos and Marvin McNutt combined for 1,340 receiving yards and nine touchdowns. Freshman RB Adam Robinson led the ground game with 775 yards and five touchdowns.

When the offense sputters, the defense needs to step up. They do so, ranking 11th in total defense (286.67 yards per game), 10th in points allowed (15.50 per game), and eighth in passing defense (164.67 yards per game).

Senior LB Pat Angerer leads the team with 135 tackles (four for loss), a sack, and an interception. Junior DL Adrian Clayborn added 61 tackles (18 for loss) and 9.5 sacks. Sophomore DB Tyler Sash contributed 84 tackles (5.5 for loss), and six interceptions, returning one for a touchdown. The Hawkeyes' offense isn’t always at the top of its game, but the defense is usually prepared to step up in need.

The Match-up : Georgia Tech is 22-15 in bowl games. They have been to a bowl for 13 straight seasons, but are currently mired in a four game losing streak.

Iowa is 12-10-1 in its bowl history. They are coming off a win in the 2008 Outback Bowl against South Carolina 31-10.

Obviously, the big story is the defense of Iowa versus the offense of Georgia Tech. With Angerer and Clayborn in the middle, this is where the option is a great play. Nesbitt and Dwyer will no doubt look to the middle, but if they continually get stuffed, they can bounce to the outside, forcing Iowa to open up its coverage. This should open the middle up.

At the same time, unlike most other teams, Iowa has had plenty of time to prepare for the triple-option. If the run can get stuffed, GT will have to throw, and look for the Hawkeyes to feast on Nesbitt’s passing ability.

Iowa will get Ricky Stanzi back, but he makes mistakes and if Morgan can get some pressure on him, a turnover or two will occur. If Stanzi has enough time, McNutt and Johnson-Koulianos will wreck havoc on the secondary.

The Prediction : Iowa prepares well for the triple-option and beats Georgia Tech 27-21.