What is black and gold and has the eyes of a tiger and a hawk? You have good insight skills if you said the Insight Bowl does. Tigers and Hawks will be running wild and flying loose in Tempe, Arizona, at Sun Devil Stadium.
For conference bragging rights, Big Ten and Big 12 representatives will collide at that neutral site. On Dec. 29, the game kicks off at 2:30 p.m. EST on ESPN. It will be thrilling.
The University of Missouri Tigers will travel from Columbia, Mo. and the snow to the sunshine. But, they won’t be kicking their feet up by the pool for too long. Also coming from cold weather to sunshine to meet them will be the University of Iowa Hawkeyes.
Which native son will shine brightest? I’ll be watching to find out. But, I have a pretty good indication of how this game will go. I’ll tell you about it before I’m done with this allotted space.
According to Missouri officials, they’ve sold about 3,000 of the 11,000 tickets they were allotted. Fans from Missouri will be watching a lot of their native sons on the gridiron. Both the Hawkeyes and the Tigers have a big recruiting presence in Missouri—especially in Saint Louis.
Kirk Ferentz, who is Iowa’s coach, can sell the close proximity to home that Iowa offers Missouri’s football talent. Playing in a BCS Conference with a shot at the Rose Bowl probably helps.
One of Iowa’s receivers, Marvin McNutt, played on the Hazelwood Central High School football team with one of the Tigers: Mizzou running back De’Vion Moore was his teammate on the powerhouse high school team.
While all three of the school’s colors are basically the same, the gold of Iowa is more of a yellow.
Legendary Hawkeyes coach, Haden Fry, got permission from the Pittsburgh Steelers to copy their uniforms. According to the folklore, Iowa’s familiar uniforms, hence, were born in 1979 after Mean Joe Green got involved.
Folks and fans are in an uproar over what recently happened to the program.
Iowa (7-5, 4-4) suffered a huge hit to their receiver pool when one of them was recently booted off the team. On Dec. 8, All-Big Ten wide receiver Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, 23, was suspended after he was arrested on drug charges.
He caught 46 passes for 745 yards and 10 touchdowns and is Iowa’s career leader in receptions and receiving yards.
Mizzou is usually deep at receiver. This year is more of the same. Tight End Michael Agnew made All-Big 12. Wes Kemp ad T.J. Moe complement each other's games.
This is Mizzou’s sixth straight bowl game and seventh in eight years since Gary Pinkel became head coach in 2001. Before then, Missouri was in a bowl game drought from 1984-1996. He’s 3-3 in bowl games at Mizzou.
Ferentz is 5-3 in bowls, and he’s now taken Iowa to eight consecutive. He’s 2-0 in the last two bowl games, while Pinkel lost to Navy in the Texas Bowl last season.
This will be Mizzou’s second appearance in the Insight bowl. They won, 34-31, over West Virginia in 1998 when it was the Insight.com Bowl.
This year’s edition could be Pinkel’s best Missouri Tigers squad. That remains to be seen. He has a corps of young running backs who will try to get him over .500 in bowl games. The seniors won more games than any senior class at Mizzou and finished tied with Nebraska in the Big 12.
It can be argued that Missouri (10-2, 6-2) lost to Nebraska three times this season. They finished with the same Big 12 North record as Nebraska, but the Cornhuskers defeated the Tigers during the season. Mizzou lost the tiebreaker.
Nebraska beat them one week in Lincoln, and Texas Tech upset Mizzou the following week, 24-17, in Lubbock. It was Mizzou’s “hangover” game. The Cornhuskers, therefore, were awarded first place and faced Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship Game.
Mizzou is the No. 12 team in the BCS rankings—above Nebraska (No. 18).
If organizers had selected them, Nebraska could have easily ended up in the Insight Bowl. The Bowl has the fourth choice of teams from the Big 12. Mizzou was chosen over the Cornhuskers.
Oklahoma is in the BCS Fiesta Bowl, Texas A&M was the Cotton Bowl’s pick, and the Alamo Bowl had the third pick. Their organizers selected Oklahoma State, and the rest is Big 12 history.
Could this snub of Nebraska have been because the Huskers are moving to the Big Ten Conference next season? Maybe. Iowa is a staple school of the Big Ten.
By losing their last three games, the Hawkeyes stumbled into the bowl season. Their rush defense was a huge reason. If they can solidify it, then they will force Mizzou to pass—an area where their quarterback, Blaine Gabbert, has been struggling.
Though Gabbert passed for over 2,700 yards, Mizzou fans were spoiled by Chase Daniel’s years as the Tigers quarterback.
In the last 100 years—a nice round number—this will be Iowa’s first matchup with Missouri. The Tigers lead the series 7-5. They were scheduled, tentatively, to play each year from 2005-08. Pinkel took Iowa off the Mizzou schedule because he felt they were too good.
“We were building our program,” Pinkel said. “That didn’t make much since to me to play such a good football program.” He’s confident he got it right. “I would say that’s an intelligent decision,” he added.
In their history, Iowa has only had one Heisman Trophy winner, Nick Hines (1939)—zero in the modern era. Neither school has won a National Championship to speak of, nor had a Heisman Trophy winner since World War II.
There won’t be a National Title handed out, but there are national ramifications behind the Big Ten-Big 12 intrigue.
Prediction: With 25 touchdowns and only four interceptions, Ricky Stanzi is a player to watch for Iowa.
Mizzou could have very well been a BCS team. Their secondary is athletic and capable of playing one-on-one lock down defense on elite receivers. Being down at wide receiver, it could spell big trouble for the Hawkeyes.
Mizzou is ranked No. 6 in FBS scoring defense, allowing only 15 points per game. The Tigers only allowed 10 touchdowns rushing by their opponents.
Iowa’s offense struggled to run the ball in their season-ending wins drought. They’d hoped to win the Big Ten, but lost four out of their last six games and finished fourth. Their worst defeat was to Arizona, 34-27, and they lost their five games by a total of 18 points.
Mizzou, meanwhile, won its last three games. The Tigers have the momentum and the incentive to get a victory, since Navy embarrassed them last year. The Tigers will win it, 27-17.