Iowa Hawkeyes Look to Build for 2009

Mark EvenContributor IDecember 30, 2008

Kirk Ferentz will lead his team to Tampa for the second time in four years on Thursday as the Iowa Hawkeyes take on the South Carolina Gamecocks.  Red-hot Iowa is a slight favorite in the game against a slumping USC squad.  This is a match-up of traditional power conferences, the Big Ten and the SEC.

This duel brings the fifth place finishers from each conference, yet the teams seem to be heading in opposite directions.  South Carolina has lost their last two games in blowout fashion, and all season their offense has not produced much.  Of their seven victories, the most impressive is the win over NC State week one, this was before the maturation of Russell Wilson.

Iowa is on a roll, winners of five of the last six, including the upset of No. 3 Penn State.  The stingy Iowa defense has allowed just 13.3 points per game and Shonn Greene leads a ball control offense putting up good numbers.  The four losses have come by a combined 12 points and the Hawks have figured out how to win close ones since.

Iowa can gain confidence against SEC competition and start the ball rolling for the 2009 season.  With many returning players, Iowa will be among the favorites for the Big Ten crown.  Ricki Stanzi should become a solid leader, the ground game will be strong, and the defense should be intimidating once again.  Iowa will be a preseason favorite in most games besides November 14th at Ohio State.  This game has potential to be a top 10 match-up.

South Carolina must contain Shonn Greene and get pressure on Ricki Stanzi.  The defensive line is the key of the game for the Gamecocks.  Iowa must play their style of football, controlling the clock, running the football and stopping the big play.  Kirk Ferentz has been a great preparer for bowl games in his career, and this should continue. 

The Hawkeyes wear down South Carolina and win 41-21.