Don't forget to visit the Open Thread for comments, observations and possible rambling by Hawkeyes fans.
1. Shonn Greene. One of the things South Carolina needed this year was a solid and consistent running back. Iowa has that in spades in Greene, who rushed for at least 100 yards in each game the Hawkeyes played this year.
|2008 - Shonn Greene||12||278||1729||144.1||6.2||17||8||49||4.1||6.1||0|
The only solace here for Gamecock fans is that Greene also rushed for at least 100 yards in each of Iowa's four losses. But South Carolina has to at least slow down the running game to have any chance at a win.
2. Defense. Say what you want about South Carolina's defense, which ranked 12th in the nation in total yardage allowed -- Iowa's is also pretty good, ranked 13th in the nation in total yardage allowed. The last thing the Gamecocks offense needs is to face a tough defense ready for a big game. Again, there's some reason for optimism here: The weakest part of the Iowa defense is the pass defense. But "weakness" is a relative term. The Hawkeyes still allow just 191.3 ypg through the air.
3. Kirk Ferentz. His moral compass is either broken or he discarded it long ago, but Ferentz is still a pretty good football coach. He's compiled a 69-53 record at Iowa, including three ten-win seasons and has lost just one bowl game (the 2003 Sugar Bowl) by more than a TD. He's technically just 3-3 in the postseason, but Florida's 2006 Outback Bowl win was pretty shady.
4. Interceptions. One of the Iowa pass defense's strength is the pick. The Hawkeyes have 20 interceptions this season. South Carolina's 24 interceptions on offense lead the nation. If Stephen Garcia starts putting the ball up for grabs, Iowa will come up with a few interceptions, killing drives and any hope for a win.
5. Momentum. It's always best to come into your bowl game on a winning streak, and Iowa does that. The Hawkeyes have won five of their last six, including the last three. South Carolina got waxed by Florida and soundly defeated by the Team from the Upstate to close out the year.
1. Defense. South Carolina's best chance of winning remains having a good game on defense. Slow down Shonn Greene -- shutting him down entirely is probably too much to ask -- and force Iowa to throw the ball into one of the best secondaries in the country, and the Gamecocks have a chance of keeping the Hawkeyes from establishing an offensive rhythm. The play of the defensive line and linebackers will be critical; if Greene makes the secondary on a regular basis, the game's over.
2. Distractions. I don't care how often it's happened before or whether it's entirely true -- this is a distraction.
Cleveland Browns owner Randy Lerner isn't prepared to be turned down a second time in his quest to find a savior for his football franchise, according to a league source familiar with his effort to hire New England Patriots personnel director Scott Pioli.
According to the source, Lerner was not pleased when former Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Bill Cowher spurned his advances and so he is prepared to make what was described as a "huge" financial offer to Pioli that would include not only millions, but more importantly full control of the organization and the funds necessary to bring in Pioli's first choice as head coach, Iowa's Kirk Ferentz.
Ferentz has been rumored to be headed to the pros before and remained at Iowa. But with Lerner ready to spend millions, the occasional rumbling of discontent in ethanol country and the scent of scandal now surrounding Iowa, it might be time for Ferentz to exit. One wonders whether there's already been any discussions between Pioli or the Browns and the Iowa coach.
3. Stephen Garcia. He's at home -- though that means he probably knows all the hot spots -- and on the biggest stage of his career. For a guy who seems to like the limelight, this is it. As long as Garcia can remain sober until kickoff, he's still the best option at quarterback and will get a chance to show off his skills both ot the home crowd and a national television audience.
4. Steve Spurrier. After a rough introduction to the postseason at Duke and Florida, Spurrier is 5-3 in his last eight bowl games. He would be 6-2 if not for one of the more memorable defensive meltdowns of the Tyrone Nix Era, but that's another story. Spurrier knows as well as anyone how important this game is to South Carolina's future; he'll have a good game plan prepared. Executing it, unfortunately, falls to someone else.
5. Our game. South Carolina performs well in the Outback Bowl, defeating Ohio State in both of the Gamecocks' previous trips to Tampa. History like that doesn't mean too much -- but it's a reason for hope.
PREDICTION: The SEC has been on a roll in bowl games, and I'd love nothing more than to share Gamecock Man's optimism. But I don't. On the other hand, Iowa fans who think the Hawkeyes will roll are delusional. The Gamecocks fall in a hard-fought battle. Iowa 31, South Carolina 30