Outback Bowl Preview

Dec. 28, 2016

Iowa will meet Florida at the 2017 Outback Bowl in Tampa, Fla., on Monday, Jan. 2. The Outback Bowl is scheduled for 1 p.m. ET kickoff from Raymond James Stadium, with the broadcast airing on ABC.

Iowa tied for second in the Big Ten West Division with a record of 8-4, including 6-3 in conference play. The Hawkeyes won their final three games of the season, including home wins over No. 2 Michigan (14-13) and No. 15 Nebraska (40-10), and managed to outscore those opponents 71-10 over the last 130 minutes of play. In between those two ranked wins, Iowa blanked Illinois for its first Big Ten shutout since 2009. The Hawkeyes are making their fifth appearance in the Outback Bowl, and their first appearance in Tampa since 2014. The Hawkeyes are 2-2 in previous Outback Bowl contests.  Iowa defeated Florida (37-17) in 2004, lost to Florida (31-24) in 2006, defeated South Carolina (31-10) in 2009, and lost to LSU (21-14) in 2014. Iowa, which is 11-13 all-time against current teams in the SEC, has posted a 14-14-1 record in 29 previous bowl appearances, including a 6-7 mark under head coach Kirk Ferentz.

Florida finished the regular season 8-4 overall and 6-2 in the SEC. The Gators, who won their second consecutive SEC East title by clinching the division with a goal-line stand in the final moment of a 16-10 win at LSU, enter the matchup coming off a 54-16 loss to Alabama in the SEC Championship Game. They now prep for their 43rd all-time bowl appearance with a 21-21 record in the previous 42 meetings. Head coach Jim McElwain has led the Gators to a bowl game in each of his first two seasons, and suffered a Big Ten defeat to Michigan, 41-7, in last year’s Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl. UF has played in the Outback Bowl four times with a 2-2 record in the previous games. This is Florida's first trip to the Outback Bowl since 2010 when the Gators defeated Penn State, 37-24. Florida is 2-2 all-time in the Outback Bowl.

The Hawkeyes and Gators have met three times, all in bowl games, with Florida holding the 2-1 advantage. The Gators defeated Iowa, 14-6 at the 1983 Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, and 31-24 at the 2006 Outback Bowl in Tampa. Iowa's lone win in the series was a 37-17 victory at the 2004 Outback Bowl. 





Scoring Defense

Total Offense

Total Defense

Rushing Offense

Rushing Defense

Passing Offense

Passing Defense

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Iowa’s offense ranks seventh in the Big Ten in scoring (26.8), eighth in rushing (171.9), 12th in total yards (333.3), and 13th in passing (161.3). The Hawkeyes do find themselves atop the Big Ten charts and ninth in the nation in red zone offense. Inside the 20-yard-line this season, Iowa has scored points on 35-of-38 trips to the red zone, including 27 touchdowns (11 pass, 16 rush) and eight field goals. The Hawkeyes have also received national recognition for their work in the trenches, beating out top-ranked Alabama and third-ranked Ohio State for the Joe Moore Award as the nation's top collective unit. Overcoming many early season injuries, Iowa's offensive line has seen seven different starting combinations through 12 games this season. Four linemen received All-Conference honors, while right guard/tackle Sean Welsh was named second team All-America by USA Today. Quarterback C.J. Beathard has a proven record with the Hawkeyes as the winningest signal caller in school history at 21-6. His 40 career touchdown passes rank sixth all-time, and his 5,507 career passing yards rank eighth all-time. Iowa is poised to have two 1,000-yard rushers in the same season for the first time in school history if junior Akrum Wadley can gain 34 yards on the ground against Florida. LeShun Daniels Jr. has already eclipsed the milestone with 1,013 yards, making him the first Hawkeyes to rush for 1,000 yards in a season in five years. Daniels has 317 yards in the past two games, including a 158-yard performance in the victory over Nebraska.

Florida’s defense is first in the SEC in defending the pass (156.3), second in total yards allowed (298.6), fourth in scoring (16.4), and fifth against the rush (142.2). Nationally, the Gators are third in passing, fourth in team passing efficiency defense (98.35), sixth in overall defense, 10th in scoring, and 15th in red zone defense (.750). Florida’s defense will be under the direction of a new leader in the bowl game as defensive coordinator Geoff Collins was recently hired as the head coach at Temple. The unit is paced by a pair of second-team All-Americans in cornerback Teez Tabor and linebacker Jarrad Davis. Tabor, who was also an AP and Coaches All-SEC first team selection this season, led Florida with four interceptions, including one he returned for a 39-yard touchdown. He also broke up five passes, recovered a fumble and made 32 tackles. Despite missing three games due to injury, Davis racked up 60 tackles, good for second-most on the team. He also broke up four passes and had five quarterback hurries. Other contributors include second-team All-SEC lineman Caleb Brantley, who tied for the Florida lead in tackles for loss, registering 8.5 for a total of 28 yards lost. Fellow second-team All-SEC standout Quincy Wilson recorded 31 tackles, six pass breakups and three interceptions, including one returned for a 78-yard touchdown, as a 12-game starter. Starting defensive backs Duke Dawson and Nick Washington did not play against Alabama and could return against Iowa.

On offense, Florida has struggled throughout the year, ranking 84th out of 128 teams nationally in passing (215.3), 110th in scoring (23.4), 113th in rushing (129.8), and 115th in total yards (345.1). The big question going into the bowl game is who will be under center for the Gators. Redshirt sophomore Luke Del Rio started six games, but has not played since Nov. 5. Filling in for Del Rio has been Austin Appleby, a graduate transfer from Purdue. Appleby has completed 61.4 percent of his passes for 1,225 yards, eight touchdowns and five interceptions. He completed 26-of-39 for 261 yards and two touchdowns against Alabama’s top-ranked defense, but he also threw three interceptions in the first half. Some Gator fans are clamoring for true freshman Feleipe Franks to get the start. Second-team All-SEC lineman Martez Ivey has helped pave the way for running back Jordan Scarlett to have three 100-yard games this season. Wideout Antonio Callaway leads the team with 60.5 receiving yards per game.  

Iowa’s defense is fourth in the Big Ten in scoring (17.9), sixth in passing (199.7), seventh in total yards allowed (352.8), and eighth in rushing (153.2). The Hawkeyes boast the nation’s 10th-best scoring defense and the 12th-best red zone defense (.735). Three All-Conference standouts led the unit in defensive back Desmond King, linebacker Josey Jewell, and defensive tackle Jaleel Johnson. Jewell leads the Big Ten with 114 tackles on the year, giving him 9.5 stops per game, which is second in the league and 20th nationally. He has 291 career tackles, good for 18th all-time in program history. Johnson leads Iowa and is tied for sixth in the Big Ten with 7.5 sacks (50 yards). He entered the year with five career sacks. King poses a threat on special teams as well, as he is the only Big Ten player in the last 20 years with 12-plus career interceptions and 1,500-plus combined kickoff/punt return yards. Other Hawkeye defenders who earned honorable mention status from the Big Ten include defensive end Parker Hesse, cornerback Greg Mabin and tackle Nathan Bazata. 

Special teams play will be exciting to watch when one of the nation’s top punters boots it to one of the nation’s best returners. Florida punter Johnny Townsend, a first-team All-American, averaged 48.0 yards off 60 punts this year. Twenty-eight of those punts went for 50-plus yards, and 25 punts landed inside the opponent's 20-yard line. He will need to kick it away from the aforementioned King, who leads the Big Ten averaging 27.2 yards per kickoff return and ranks second in the conference averaging 9.8 yards per punt return. King’s kickoff return average ranks 14th nationally, while his punt return mark is 21st. Hawkeye kicker Keith Duncan is 8-of-9 on field goals this season, while his counterpart, Eddy Pineiro, is fifth in the SEC with 18-of-22 field goal attempts made.