On Tuesday night, all eyes will be on the Orange Bowl, as the Iowa Hawkeyes will take on the Yellow Jackets from Georgia Tech. Iowa, who saw their dreams of a Big Ten Championship and trip to the Rose Bowl end at the hands of Rose Bowl Champs, Ohio State, will try to cap off a great season in Miami.
Standing in their way will be Paul Johnson’s triple option attack that has given college football all it can handle since he took over in 2008. The Jackets will look to continue their new version of college football’s most traditional offensive attack en route to a twelve win season.
College FootBlog will provide a breakdown of each team’s strengths and areas for concern, we will analyze some of the match ups in the upcoming game, and we will give our prediction of the outcome of this BCS contest.
Strengths: When head coach Paul Johnson announced that he planned on bringing his triple option offense from Navy to Georgia Tech, many (including College FootBlog) thought he would not last long before being run out of Atlanta.
Instead, his Yellow Jackets have dominated the ground game, and this year, GT ranks second nationally in rushing yards per game with just over 307 ypg. Jonathan Dwyer leads the Jackets with just under 1350 yards, and he is averaging just over six yards per carry.
Quarterback Josh Nesbitt is equally dangerous running the football, rushing for 18 touchdowns this season, and he is only nine yards away from breaking the 1,000-yard mark this season.
Key Concerns: As great as GT runs the ball, their defense has been very inept at stopping, or even slowing down, opposing running backs. The Yellow Jackets have given up over 150 yards rushing per game.
They will have to do a much better job on Tuesday if they have any aspirations of beating an Iowa team that depends on their ground game as well.
Strengths: Make no mistake about it, Iowa has won their games because of a dominant defense. The Hawkeyes have the nation’s 11th best total defense. In fact, ‘Hawks’ dominant “D” held their opponents to 17 points or fewer in eight of their twelve games this season.
Like all great defenses, it has to start with the front four. Led by junior DE Adrian Clayborn, Iowa’s defensive front as equally good at defending the run and pass. Just as disruptive is the linebacker corps, which is anchored by junior Jeremiha Hunter. Key Concerns: The play of quarterback Ricky Stanzi has been great at times, but downright dismal at others. This inconsistency could really hurt, and can, and has, at times this season, made Iowa offense very one-dimensional.
After suffering a severe high ankle sprain against Northwestern, Stanzi had a minor surgery, and it appears that he will be 100%. He will have to limit the turnovers if he wants to keep his team in the game–Stanzi has 15 TD’s, but 14 picks this season.
Georgia Tech Offense vs. Iowa Defense
As talented as Iowa’s defense is against the run, they have not seen an offense like Georgia Tech’s–not for several years. The only team to slow down GT’s running game in the last two seasons was the Miami Hurricanes early in the season, when they held the Jackets to 95 yards on the ground.
Paul Johnson added a few new wrinkles to his option attack and got his team right back on track. Iowa’s hard-nosed defense should contain the Jackets better than most, but it is usually only a matter of time before Dwyer, Nesbitt or one of the many other dangerous weapons in the GT backfield breaks loose for a couple huge gains. EDGE: Georgia Tech
Iowa Offense vs. Georgia Tech Defense
Although Ricky Stanzi has been rather erratic this season, the Iowa running game has been very solid. After losing Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, Shonn Green to the NFL Draft last season, many wondered who would fill the void. The tandem of Adam Robinson and Brandon Wegher has amassed over 1,300 yards this season.
As we mentioned, the Yellow Jackets have had their issues with the running game this season. Look for the Hawkeyes to get in a lot of third down and manageable situations, which should take some pressure off Stanzi and the passing game. EDGE: Iowa
Iowa kicker Daniel Murray and punter Ryan Donahue were both honorable mention All-Big Ten by the media. Georgia Tech’s kicker, Scott Blair has put up solid numbers as well, but his five missed field goals this year show a little less consistency than Iowa’s Murray.
Each team has utilized multiple players in the return game, but for both teams, the offenses are built for grinding it out and establishing field position by grinding it out and punting when necessary.
As solid as Iowa’s defense is and has been all season, look for Tuesday’s game against Georgia Tech to be the fifth game this season that the Hawkeyes surrender more than 17 points. The Yellow Jackets have scored 30 or more points in nine of their thirteen games this season. Iowa will contain Dwyer and Nesbitt for a while, but look for one of those two great runners to open up a few big runs, at least by the end of the first half.
Iowa’s ground game will keep them in this football game, as it should have some significant success against Tech’s struggling rush defense. However, even though the Hawkeyes are more than capable of playing from behind, if Georgia Tech can get to 28 points, Iowa will have to turn to its erratic passing game, and that could prove to be the difference. Score Prediction: Georgia Tech wins 31-27