2010 Orange Bowl Preview & Pick
It seems the Orange Bowl has something in common with the Fiesta Bowl this season. Like the Fiesta, the Orange pits a dominant offense versus a dominant defense. Also like the Fiesta, the Orange features at least one team that some people thought would end up in a different bowl. In this case, it’s the Iowa Hawkeyes.
A closer look, however, reveals that they belong in the Orange Bowl – and that they’ll lose.
(10) Iowa Hawkeyes vs (9) Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
Tuesday, January 5, 8:00 p.m. ET
Sportsbook favorite: Georgia Tech -4
Early in the year, Iowa looked like a BCS contender, opening the season 9-0. The truth, however, is that the Hawkeyes were probably pretenders all along. They barely scraped by in half those wins and their shortcomings eventually caught up to them as they fell to Northwestern and Ohio State.
The latter loss, however, came without quarterback Ricky Stanzi (ankle). He’ll return for the Orange Bowl but it’s anyone’s guess as to whether or not that’s a good thing. Stanzi flashes brilliance but still makes far too many poor throws; that’s why he practically matched his 15 touchdown passes with 14 interceptions.
Iowa’s strength is defense, especially against the run. Linebacker Pat Angerer was a first-team All-American and is a big reason why the Hawkeyes allow 3.5 yards per carry this season. The other reason is powerhouse defensive end Adrian Clayborn, who led the team with 18 tackles for losses.
But the question on everyone’s mind is: how can Iowa stop Georgia Tech’s wild, fun triple-option offense when Hawkeyes coach Kirk Ferentz has pretty much no experience defending such an attack? Talking about the Yellow Jackets’ weapons elevates my heart rate. They averaged 307.2 yards per game this season, ranking second in the country. The three-headed running monster consists of quarterback Josh Nesbitt (991 rushing yards, 18 touchdowns), bruising Jonathan Dwyer (1,346 yards, 14 touchdowns) and Anthony Allen (597, 9). If those don’t numbers confirm that the Jackets are straight out of a video game, check out the receiving stats.
Only one player on the team caught more than eight passes all season; that was breakout star Demaryius Thomas, who topped 1,100 yards on just 46 catches and averaged an absurd 25.1 yards per catch. Wow.
Not everything comes up roses for Georgia Tech, however. Derrick Morgan is a stud with probable NFL stardom in his future put his presence isn’t enough to make the Yellow Jackets’ defense good. It allowed 25 points per game and five yards per carry this season. Stanzi and the Hawkeyes will have their chances, especially if they hand off to freshman Adam Robinson and Brandon Wegher.
This isn’t an easy game to handicap but I’d go with the fresher, happier team in the end. Iowa may see 2009 as a disappointment considering its 9-0 start and it hasn’t played since November 21. Ohio State (November 14) is the only ranked team to play Iowa since September. Georgia Tech, meanwhile, aimed for the Orange Bowl all along and is content to be there.
The Jackets also beat Clemson on December 5; that means they still have a month to prepare and heal but also won’t be rusty.
I like Georgia Tech’s scintillating offense to overpower Iowa’s defense in this one.
Pick: Georgia Tech -4
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Shea Matthews lives and breathes sports. He made the transition from athlete to sports journalist at a young age, writing in TV & national newspapers. He now applies his knowledge to sports betting and handicapping every day, and shares his winning picks with the world.