Teams: Missouri (10-2) vs. Iowa (7-5)
Date: December 28, 2010, 10 p.m. EST
Location: Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, AZ
While Missouri celebrates its school-record sixth straight bowl appearance and positions itself for big things next year in the Nebraska-less Big 12, Iowa enters the Insight Bowl fighting internal problems and reaction to the absence of two players who ran afoul of team policy.
Standout wide receiver Derrell Johnson-Koulianos was arrested in early December for being part of what police termed “a drug house,” while top running back Adam Robinson was suspended a week later for failing to comply with team policy. Losing those two will hamper an Iowa attack that struggled down the stretch, and one would assume, make things easier for Missouri’s improved defense that ranks 14th nationally in scoring.
When Iowa has the ball
With Jewel Hampton already out due to injury, the loss of Robinson makes the Hawkeye ground attack extremely vulnerable. Even though the Tigers weren’t overpowering against the run, they should be able to contain Iowa back Marcus Coker, who rushed for
403 yards this season.
The diminished rushing potential puts more pressure on senior QB Ricky Stanzi, who enjoyed a big year, throwing for 2,804 yards, 25 touchdowns and only four interceptions. Stanzi completed a robust 64.8% of his throws and demonstrated the ability to make good decisions all year. He’ll need that sound judgment with Johnson-Koulianos out, since DJK was one of the Hawks’ top targets and a big-play specialist. Iowa isn’t completely bereft without him, though. Marvin McNutt (51 catches, 15.6-yard average, 8 TDs) is a first-rate weapon, and tight end Allen Reisner (39, 10.5, 2) is productive, too. But Colin Sandeman (17, 10.8, 2) and Keenan Davis (10, 12.6, 1) must step up to make sure Missouri doesn’t key on McNutt. One factor in Iowa’s favor is that it committed only nine turnovers all year, but the Tigers are ranked 10th nationally against the pass.
When Missouri has the ball
In recent years, the Tiger offense was a wide-open circus of an attack, trying to score 50 a game, basically because opponents could well be scoring 49. This season’s edition is potent, but not quite as eruptive. Instead of shooting for half a hundred, Mizzou is basically looking for about 35 a game.
It will be interesting to see how Iowa defensive coordinator Norm Parker, who shut down Georgia Tech’s vaunted spread option in last year’s Orange Bowl, handles Missouri with a month to prepare. He had better focus on quarterback Blaine Gabbert, who threw for 2,752 yards but only 15 TDs this year. Gabbert had better be careful, because Iowa picked off 17 passes this year. And though Missouri has three potent backs – De’Vion Moore (485 yards, 5.2 average, 8 TDs) Henry Josey (425, 5.7, 4) and Kendial Lawrence (382, 5.7, 4) -- the Hawkeyes allowed rivals to average 3.3 yards per rush and boast a tough front four led by tackle Karl Klug and end Adrian Clayborn. They’ll need to pressure Gabbert so he can’t get the ball to strong receivers Michael Egnew (83 catches) and T.J. Moe (77), although neither is much of a downfield threat.
Neither team is blessed with a dynamic return game, with Iowa particularly at a deficit thanks to DJK’s absence. Hawkeye kicker Mike Meyer made 12-of-15 field goal tries and 2-of-3 from beyond 40 yards, while punter Ryan Donohue averaged a robust 44.6 yards a boot.
Missouri has a similar kicking profile. Placement man Grant Ressel converted 16-of-18 kicks, with 2-of-3 from 40-plus, while punter Matt Grabner averages 42.6 yards.
Missouri NCAA Rankings (out of 120 teams)
Rush Offense: 48 (162.9 ypg)
Pass Offense: 43 (238.2 ypg)
Scoring Offense: 44 (30.3 ppg)
Rush Defense: 56 (146.9 ypg)
Pass Defense: 10 (108.2 ypg)
Scoring Defense: 6 (15.2 ppg)
Turnover Margin: 14 (+.92)
Iowa NCAA Rankings (out of 120 teams)
Rush Offense: 76 (142 ypg)
Pass Offense: 45 (237.4 ypg)
Scoring Offense: 49 (29.1 ppg)
Rush Defense: 6 (103.5 ypg)
Pass Defense: 55 (213.6 ypg)
Scoring Defense: 7 (16.4 ppg)
Turnover Margin: 7 (+1.08)
The Hawkeyes’ strong defense won’t be enough to offset their depleted offensive attack.
Missouri by 7