Contestants: Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, Andy Brodell, Brandon Myers, Allen Reisner (Iowa); Kenny McKinley, Moe Brown, Jason Barnes, Jared Cook, Weslye Saunders (South Carolina)
Iowa had problems with poor receiver play (drops, route running, etc.) over the two years previous to 2008. This this year, though, while Iowa doesn't pass the ball a whole lot, when they do, they have a fairly reliable group of guys to catch the ball. Derrell Johnson-Koulianos leads the team in receiving yards and ended the season against Minnesota with a 181 yard performance. Andy Brodell, the faster and more athletic of the two, has also had a good year. The two have swapped roles as the go-to guy; while Brodell came into the season as the more experienced player, Johnson-Koulianos got most of the looks early and late in the season, while Brodell got a lot of looks while his teammate struggled in the middle part of the schedule. Brandon Myers and Allen Reisner, the Iowa TEs, are also productive players that help the Hawkeyes move the chains.
While South Carolina has struggled offensively for most of the year, it usually hasn't been due to poor receiver play. The Gamecocks boast a great deal of talent and depth in their receiving corps; the problem has been getting these guys the ball. Kenny McKinley, Carolina's most experienced and reliable receiver, was a projected All-SEC selection before missing several games due to a badly pulled hamstring. Moe Brown and Jason Barnes (as well as a few other younger players that will see time) have had good years, although both have been prone to occasional brain farts while running their routes. Barnes has been especially impressive; although he still has learning to do, his combination of size, speed, and soft hands has made him look like Sidney Rice at times. Finally, Carolina has one of the best receiving TE combos in the country in Jared Cook and Weslye Saunders, both future NFL players.
South Carolina has more talent and speed in its receiving corps than Iowa. Kenny McKinley, even if his stats aren't what they have been this year due to injuries, is still an all-world receiver that will play on Sundays. Carolina's two TEs, Jared Cook and Weslye Saunders, are also impressive players that will give Iowa matchup problems due to their unique combinations of size and speed. Jason Barnes, Moe Brown, and some of the other younger players have had occasional growing pains, but from what I've read, so have Iowa's guys. Iowa's receiving corps is talented and gets the job done, but they aren't as good as Carolina's.
That said, our talent at receiver won't do us any good if Garcia can't get these guys the ball. Iowa, on the other hand, has had a much steadier QB, so they may end up sporting a more efficient air attack when it's all said and done. A lot is riding on Garcia's performance for our offense, especially considering that I don't see any chance of us running the ball against Iowa.
We should be aware that while Iowa is a running team, they will likely throw the ball a lot in this game. Our defensive game plan will likely be similar to what we saw against UGA earlier in the season. We will probably sell out to stop the run and hope our defensive backs can handle Iowa's receivers man-to-man. To counter, Iowa will look to throw the ball down field to get us to back off and give Shonn Greene room to run. They may also try to get Greene the ball through the air, although from what I can tell this hasn't been a very effective part of their offense this year. Minnesota basically used this defensive philosophy against Iowa in the last game of their seasons, and the Hawkeyes burned the Gophers both through the air and on the ground. This isn't to say that we should be too worried. We undoubtedly have a better defense than Minnesota. Moreover, as said, we were in a similar situation defensively against UGA, and we were quite successful in that game. Of course, we had Emanuel Cook in that game. so things might be different this time.
Advantage: South Carolina