2009 Outback Bowl Preview and Pick – South Carolina Gamecocks vs. Iowa Hawkeyes

South Carolina Gamecocks (7-5) +3.5, 43 O/U vs. Iowa Hawkeyes (8-4)
Outback Bowl, Tampa, F.L., Jan 1st, 11:00AM Eastern

By Jay Horne of Predictem.com

The Outback Bowl consist of an annual showdown between the SEC and the Big 10 and has provided some really exciting games through the years. The last 4 years the game has been settled by 10 points or less with two of those games settled by a mere field goal. The Gamecocks won their previous two Outback Bowl visits against Ohio State in 2001 and 2002. The Hawkeyes have been to the Outback Bowl twice in the last 5 years facing the Florida Gators in both games. Iowa split those match-ups with the Gators and they will try to focus on winning their first bowl game since 2004. This annual grudge match collides the power of the Big 10 with the speed of the SEC in an epic conference battle.

South Carolina had an up and down season plagued by inconsistency at the quarterback position. The Gamecock quarterbacks ranked 2nd in the nation in interceptions as they could just never get anything going on a steady basis. Redshirt freshmen QB Stephen Garcia perhaps showed the most promising play on the field. Garcia has a strong arm and can also make defenses play with his legs. South Carolina has two big targets at wide outs. TE Jared Cook is the biggest guy you will ever see run a 4.3 40 yard dash and his ability to catch passes makes him a big threat for defenses. WR Kenny McKinley owns the school-record in reception yards and has proved time and time again that he can make big plays. The Gamecocks running game has been missing in action this season and it has most likely caused the offense to stutter more than it should. Despite the ground game, the Gamecocks will be looking to get the ball in the hands of their talented receivers.

Iowa is led by the play of junior running back Shonn Greene. Greene has the 2nd most yards in college football on the ground racking up an amazing 1,729 yards this season. Greene has accounted for a stout 6.2 yards per carry and has been responsible for 17 touchdowns on the year. The Hawkeyes hope that Greene will be able to control the ground game against a talented Gamecock defense. The Hawkeyes have an impressive defense themselves. The Iowa defense ranks 12th overall holding offenses to only 289 yards per game of total offense. The Iowa scoring defense also ranks in the top 10 of teams in college football holding opposing teams to a mere 13.3 points per game. Iowa will look for the strong play of their defense to overcome the South Carolina offense that has had trouble holding onto the football.

Bookmakers have the betting lines favoring the power of the Big 10 by 3.5 points over South Carolina. The over/under for the game has been set at the 43 point total and that could be too high if both defenses take over. ML numbers for the game have Iowa listed as the -165 favorites and South Carolina as the +145 underdogs.

South Carolina sports one of the top defenses in the country similar to that of the Hawkeyes. It will be very interesting to see how good each defense is considering both have been recognized as the best defenses in their conference at one time or another this season. Who has the better defense the Big 10 or the SEC? South Carolina ranks 11th nationally in total yards holding teams to 288 yards per game. The Gamecocks defense might be ranked even higher if not for the fact the offense has not helped them at all this season.

Iowa quarterback Ricky Stanzi has been fairly effective this season. Despite not throwing the ball very much, Stanzi has completed 58% of his passes for 1809 yards and 13 touchdowns. Stanzi has the ability to spread the ball around well to the Iowa receivers, but they could have a tough time throwing the football against the South Carolina secondary. The Gamecocks secondary ranks 3rd in college football holding opposing passing attacks to 160 yards per game through the air. Look for the Hawkeyes to try and establish the run first and then make some attempts down field. If the Hawkeyes can not establish the run, they will have a tough time moving it through the air.

Betting Trends
South Carolina is 1-3-1 ATS in their last 5 games while reaching the over total in 5 of their past 7 games. Iowa has been a bit better against the books going 5-2 ATS and reaching the over total in 5 of their last 7 games as well.

Jays Pick I think scoring will come a bit more often that many expect considering the great defenses highlighting this event. The winner will be the team that does not turn the ball over. South Carolina will have some success through the air; Iowa will have some success on the ground equaling some points. Take the over 43.