Iowa Hawkeyes (12-1 SU, 7-5-1 ATS) vs. Stanford Cardinal (11-2 SU, 9-4 ATS)
Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual
Date/Time: Friday, January 1, 2016 at 5PM EST
Where: Rose Bowl, Pasadena, California
by Scott, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: IOWA +6.5/STAN -6.5
Over/Under Total: 56.5
On New Years Day, the Iowa Hawkeyes face the Stanford Cardinal in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. These are the two best teams not in the CFP, with 5th-ranked Iowa taking on 6th-ranked Stanford. This game should be a hard-hitting affair between two teams that excel in the trenches. The Hawkeyes nearly made it to the playoff, falling a field goal short in the Big Ten title game against Michigan State, with a late TD drive spoiling their chances. Stanford is coming into this game with some steam, beating USC, 41-22, in the Pac-12 title game last week. Both teams will have 26 days rest leading to this game, giving them a chance to rest some weary bodies.
When coming up short in as agonizing fashion as Iowa did, you have to think about a possible letdown. To finish one spot out of the top four and for it to happen on a final-drive touchdown can be a bitter pill to swallow. But this is still the Rose Bowl and its not like Iowa is accustomed to such grandeur in recent seasons, as they are usually a middling Big Ten team playing in a no-frills bowl around Christmas time. This is a battle of the best teams not in the CFP and Iowa should be ready to play their best.
As we saw in the Big Ten title game, the Iowa offense is not among the best in the top ten. Then again, that was against what might be the best defense in the nation so we shouldnt judge them too harshly for how they performed against the Spartans. Theyve still managed to score 40 or more points on four separate occasions, while eclipsing 30 points 8 times this season. They are led by the efficient CJ Beathard at quarterback. Beathard is not explosive, instead placing a premium on the run game and not making mistakes, while leaning on a robust defense to do the hard work. But he can move the ball pretty well, depending on Matt VandeBerg and Tevaun Smith in the receiving corps. But the bulk of offensive load is carried by the running game, led by an explosive back in Jordan Canzeri, the main difference-maker on this offense. He incurred an ankle injury against the Spartans and is listed as questionable, though they have a lot of time to work him back slowly with the extended break. There are other weapons in the ground game, with Akrum Wadley and LeShun Daniels, Jr. But having Canzeri in there at close to 100% would help, as they do not have a deep-enough offense to withstand the loss of their best player.
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The Hawkeyes defense is the main reason they are 12-1. Theyve been consistent the whole season and though the final sequence against Michigan State was a damning moment, its been a difference-making part of the team, a defense that can chip in to help win the game. Desmond King is all over the field and has eight picks on the season. The team has secured 26 turnovers and was getting the job done all season. The time off will also help some weary bodies rest up for this game.
The 11-2 Cardinal have been on the outside looking in as far as the CFP goes, first with the week one loss to Northwestern and later with the loss to Oregon. In the meantime, they won a bunch of big games. Before beating a hot USC team in the Pac-12 title game, they beat a CFP-bound Notre Dame team with dramatic late-game theatrics. They defeated 4 ranked teams this season and navigated through a tough conference to make it to this spot.
Stanfords offense is led by Kevin Hogan, the senior quarterback who has shown immeasurable grit and passion this season. His willpower and motivation have been keys to the teams success this season. He had 24 TD throws and 7 picks on the season, while completing nearly 70% of his throws. Christian McCaffrey is one of the top players in the nation, after setting the single-season record for all-purpose yardage. He is the teams leading rusher and receiver, with 1847 yards on the ground and 540 in the air and will be the biggest weapon on the field on January 1.
The Stanford offense has more options that Iowa. Remound Wright, a short-yardage specialist, has 15 touchdowns on the season, while Barry Sanders, Jr. has given them a spurt at times, as well. And with Michael Rector, Austin Hooper, and Devon Cajuste, they have some dangerous weapons aerially. And they have an O-line that can open big holes for the ground game, while keeping Hogan protected, though they will be tested by this Iowa D.
Stanfords defense has given up more points in spots, though the depth of the conference has made it more difficult than what Iowa had to face this season. This defense is perhaps more battle-tested than their opponents. Theyve held up well against some tough offenses and when they need to provide some clutch play, they usually do. They give up just over 23 points per game, which is pretty good when playing one dangerous offense after the next.
A lot of people saw Iowa lose in the only game where they saw the Hawkeyes play this season. But they played a heck of a Michigan State team that needed to pull out all the stops to win that game. The in-state site favors Stanford and the Cardinal faced more tough competition this season leading to this game, while beating a higher-caliber of opponent. And to survive the Pac-12 with one lone conference defeat shows what theyre made of. I just think that maybe some people are overlooking Iowa and that their defense should keep them in this game. Im taking the points.
Scott’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Im betting on the Iowa Hawkeyes plus 6.5 points.
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