Okay, so we missed a day, but I think B-Diddy’s excellent post on the Fiesta Bowl probably redeems us (despite his incredible insensitivity).
Now sitting at 8-6-1 for the feature, tonight we take a look at what appears to be a relatively drab matchup between the Iowa Hawkeyes and ACC Champion Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl. 8:20 PM ET, Fox.
Orange Bowl, Iowa vs. Georgia Tech. Current Line: Georgia Tech -5.5, O/U 51
Iowa’s 11th ranked defense versus the Jackets’ 11th ranked offense: a classic test of what really wins championships. Okay, not really, but it does add a little spice to this game. Iowa’s offense has very little life in it, while its D obviously packs a punch. Georgia Tech is pretty much the exact opposite: A swiss cheese defense combined with a offense running game that seems impossible to stop at times.
Indeed, Georgia Tech’s ground game, led by QB Josh Nesbitt and RB Jonathan Dwyer, both 1,000 yard rushers this year, is 2nd in the nation, averaging over 300 yards per contest and 5.32 per carry. Even when you can put a good defensive series together, say, holding Tech to half that ypc average, you’re still left with a 4th and short, and Paul Johnson’s Jackets are not deterred by those odds (nor should they be).
On top of that, with such a strong ground game controlling the clock and tiring opposing defenses out by the 4th quarter, the Jackets rarely need to pass, but can still catch their opponents over committing to the run, and have the ability to hit the occasional big pass play over the top. Sounds like the perfect recipe for success, yeah? It is, when you’re not giving up 25 points per game, which is an obvious weakness for Tech. Lucky for them, Iowa fields one of the worst offenses in the nation, ranked 93rd overall.
So who wins out here in this study in contrast? I’m going with the Hawkeyes. One of the biggest advantages for a team like Georgia Tech and its, relatively rare, spread option attack is the fact that teams generally only have one week to prepare for it. Iowa, like LSU last year (38-3 victory over Tech in the Peach Bowl), has had a month.
The two times Georgia Tech has slipped this year play into this theory as well. Miami, having played a Thursday night game the week before, had a little extra time to gameplan for the Jackets. Result: Tech’s run game effectivley shut down, Miami hands Tech its first loss of the season.
Georgia didn’t have extra prep time, but, after 2008’s embarrassing 2nd half collapse in Athens, dedicated an entire defensive session of every practice this year to Tech’s spread option offense, according to reports. Result: Another effective bottling up of the Georgia Tech ground game, and another Tech loss.
Iowa’s defense is better than Miami’s, and head and shoulders better than Georgia’s. They’ve also had a month to prepare and boast one of the nation’s best LB corps, highlighed by AJ Edds and Pat Angerer (how can you bet against a LB named “Angerer,” by the way?). While the Hawkeyes’ anemic offense is troublesome with regards to putting points on the board, I think Georgia Tech’s defense is slight enough to keep them in the game. Especially if the Jackets’ offense is kept relatively in check.
Iowa is on an 11-3 and 10-3 ATS run as an underdog and against teams with winning records, respectively. They’re also 9-4 ATS in their last 13 games overall. All that said, Iowa +5.5 looks quite good to send Frump to a 9-6-1 record for our feature..