No. 17 Florida Gators (8-4 SU, 4-7-1 ATS) vs. Iowa Hawkeyes (8-4 SU, 6-6 ATS)
College Football Outback Bowl Preview
Date/Time: Monday January 2nd, 2017. 1:00PM (EST)
Where: Raymond James Stadium Tampa, F.L.
by Jay, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: UF -2.5/IOWA +2.5
Over/Under Total: 40.5
A pair of 8-4 campaigns will collide at Raymond James Stadium on January 2nd in this year’s Outback Bowl when the no. 17 Florida Gators meet the Iowa Hawkeyes. Luckily for the Gators they will get to stay within their home state for this post season pairing and they should have a pretty good fan presence in Tampa which is just two hours south of Gainesville. After getting beat by rival Florida State in the season finale and then blown out to Alabama 54-16 in the SEC Championship Game, Florida is trying to put some type of positive spin on the end of this season which could be achieved by a victory in the Outback Bowl.
However, the Iowa Hawkeyes deserve some legitimate respect with their identical 8-4 record. The Gators may house the current 17th spot in the rankings but Iowa really come on strong at the end of the season with 3 straight victories over no. 3 Michigan, Illinois, and no. 16 Nebraska by a combined score of 82-23. The defense has been playing great for the most part all season and they have finally regained some efficiency on offense after some struggles during the middle of the year. Therefore, Iowa should be a great matchup for this Florida Gators team that shares some common tendencies on the way they go about their business.
For starters, both teams rely pretty heavily on their defense. Defense is the backbone for both Florida and Iowa. The Gators likely have the better defense in terms of overall talent. The Gators are rated the 6th best defense in the FBS giving up just 298 yards per game. Meanwhile Iowa is comfortably at 24th yielding just 352 yards per game. While both teams have outstanding defenses, both teams are also alike in the fact they have had offenses that have struggled this season and do not necessarily put up a lot of points. As a result, this game currently carries a total of just 40.5 points which is the lowest total among all bowl games this postseason.
Therefore this game comes down to the offense that can make a few big plays and scores because it may not take many points to win this game. While Florida has the slight upper hand in defense, I don’t think anyone would give Florida the advantage on offense. The Gators have been held to 24 points or less in each of their final 6 games this season while averaging just 15 points over their final 5 games this year. There have been quarterback issues between Luke Del Rio and Austin Appleby who have combined for 16 touchdowns and 13 picks. Meanwhile the Florida rushing offense has not been as super as it has in previous years. In fact, it has been pretty bad with the Gators ranking 113th in the FBS averaging just 129 yards per game.
I have seen people blame the coaching staff, the quarterback play, and many more reasons surrounding Florida’s offensive issues this season. I have a different theory in they just simply do not have the talent on that side of the ball. The Gators are stacked with talent on defense but do not have much at all on the offensive side of the football which are possibly the remnants of Will Muschamp’s recruiting. Therefore, I am not sure if any true fixes can be made until they start getting some better plays on that side of the football. Still, the Gators do not need a huge offensive outing in this game but just come up with a few big plays.
Iowa’s offense has not had the issues to the level of Florida but things will be difficult against a very good Gators defense. However, it still appears the Hawkeyes have the best chance to make scores in this game. Quarterback C.J Beathard has capable moments that can complement the very dangerous rushing attack led by LeShun Daniels and Akrum Wadley. The two tailbacks have combined for just less than 2,000 yards rushing and have 10 touchdowns each. Both tailbacks eclipsed the 100 yard mark in the win against Nebraska and they have been the biggest contributors towards Iowa’s late season success. Therefore, it will be interesting to see if they can produce the same results against a talented Florida defense.
Jay's Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I do not have enough confidence in Florida’s offense to back them in this spot against Iowa who has really impressed towards the latter part of the season. I like the Hawkeyes to close this one out with the victory. Take Iowa +2.5
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