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Pinstripe Bowl Preview and Prediction: Iowa vs. Boston College

AJ Dillon

AJ Dillon

The Iowa Hawkeyes and Boston College Eagles have plenty in common.

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When it comes to how the two teams play, the emphasis is on physicality, running the ball and stopping the run. While you may see spread offenses permeate the rest of the country, these two don't have any problems lining up with multiple tight ends or a fullback and grinding down opponents.

In other words, when these two 7-5 squads meet at Yankee Stadium for the New Era Pinstripe Bowl, it will not be for the faint of heart.

Iowa has had its ups and downs out of the Big Ten this season. The Hawkeyes lost three close games to Penn State, Michigan State and Northwestern through the middle of the season before a dominant rout at home over eventual Big Ten champ Ohio State served as their signature win.

From there, though, the Hawkeyes could not keep it up, and losses to Wisconsin and Purdue dotted a disappointing end to the regular season for coach Kirk Ferentz and Co.

For Boston College, most of the adversity came at the beginning of the season when the schedule had a brutal stretch, but the emergence of true freshman running back AJ Dillon pushed the Eagles forward to where they are now.

After losses to Wake Forest, Notre Dame, Clemson and Virginia Tech left the Eagles at 2-3 overall, head coach Steve Addazio's troops ripped off wins in five of their final six games.

Dillon was the centerpiece of that resurgence, but the whole team did a nice job of overcoming multiple injuries along the offensive line and to standout defensive end Harold Landry, who missed the final four games of the year.

This is about as even a matchup as it gets when it comes to how the teams are constructed and like to go about their business, so expect a close, hard-hitting game.

New Era Pinstripe Bowl: Iowa vs. Boston College

Kickoff: Wednesday, Dec. 27 at 5:15 p.m. ET

Where: Yankee Stadium (Bronx, N.Y.)

TV Channel: ESPN

Spread: Iowa -2.5

Three Things to Watch

1. AJ and Josey

When you are talking about the irresistible force vs. the immovable object in this game, one of the first things that pops into your head is the matchup between Boston College running back AJ Dillon and Iowa linebacker Josey Jewell (above, right) Dillon has carved out a spot as one of the top young running backs in the country, as he was named the ACC's Rookie of the Year after rushing for 1,432 yards, including 1,099 and 11 touchdowns over the last six games. Powered behind an offensive line that has been reinvigorated with the insertion of freshman center Ben Petrula after starter Jon Baker went down with an injury, the Boston College rushing attack has taken off.

Jewell certainly isn't the only one tasked to slow down Dillon, but he will be a main cog. One of the top linebackers in the nation, the senior is averaging 11.4 tackles per game, a mark only eclipsed by only two other players. It is not exactly a one-on-one matchup, but Jewell and Dillon will butt heads plenty in this game.

2. Pick party

With two teams this evenly matched, turnovers can play a big role in the outcome, and each squad has a player in the secondary that can make opposing passers pay for mistakes. For Iowa, that is cornerback Josh Jackson. The junior is already being mocked in the first round for the 2018 NFL Draft if he chooses to forego his senior season. A rangy, instinctive player, Jackson has the size and smarts to shut down whatever go-to receiver the Eagles try and target.

For Boston College, junior safety Lukas Denis has also had a breakout campaign with seven interceptions. Some of Denis' best games have come against the top competition on the Eagles' schedule. The local product out of Everett High (Mass.) simply has a nose for the ball. The two players lead the nation — along with fellow junior Jalen Young of Florida Atlantic — in total picks this year, so expect the quarterbacks of each team to know where they are at all times.

3. Clear signal

One place where the Hawkeyes could own an advantage is at the quarterback position. Nate Stanley (right) is not asked to be a playmaker in a run-first offense, but the sophomore has thrown for 24 touchdowns to just five interceptions on the season. The Eagles would prefer to take away running back Akrum Wadley and force the game into Stanley's hands, but the Hawkeyes do a good job of mixing in play-action and, if the game is close, can stay within their comfort zone offensively.

Iowa Hawkeyes QB Nate Stanley

The Eagles found themselves in a difficult spot when starting quarterback Anthony Brown suffered a knee injury that kept him out of the last three games of the season. However, not all was lost after the redshirt freshman went down. Darius Wade has been solid in Brown's absence, as he has completed 46-of-75 passes for 528 yards, two touchdowns and an interception this season. The fact that he has had all of the bowl prep to get ready for this game will also help, but one has to figure the Hawkeyes will be in a better spot from an experience standpoint at the position.

Final Analysis

For all of those factors given, this will be a game won in the trenches. The Boston College defensive line, which may again be without Harold Landry, has been tremendous in his absence with fellow end Zach Allen performing at a high level. The Iowa lines are stout, as usual, and there are not many programs in the country that consistently push teams around up front like the Hawkeyes. These teams will take similar approaches on offense, and whichever squad can hit the occasional big play and win the turnover battle should come away victorious. The Eagles have a bit of an edge in overall team speed, so that is what tilts this true toss-up matchup in their favor.

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Prediction: Boston College 27, Iowa 24

— Written by Adam Kurkjian, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and is a reporter for the Boston Herald. He has covered the World Series, Super Bowl, Stanley Cup playoffs, Boston Marathon and Little League World Series, among other events from the high school, college and pro ranks. Follow him on Twitter @AdamKurkjian.