From The Sports Network
By Ralph Lauro, Associate College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: The Missouri Tigers and Iowa Hawkeyes go toe-to-toe in the 2010 Insight Bowl at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe.
Aside from back-to-back losses, the Tigers have been perfect, winning 10 games and earning a share of the Big 12 North Division title for the third time in the last four seasons. With the successful run during the regular-season, Missouri earned itself a school-record sixth straight bowl game.
"We're very pleased to accept the invitation to play in the 2010 Insight Bowl," said MU Head Coach Gary Pinkel. "This is going to be a great reward for our team, and for our fans."
Overall this is the Tigers' 28th all-time bowl appearance and the program is 12-15 in such games, including three straight wins. Missouri has made one other appearance in the Insight Bowl, defeating West Virginia 34-31 in 1998.
Iowa meanwhile, was ranked in the Top 10 this year, but now finds itself unranked heading into the bowl season. The Hawkeyes ended the regular season with three consecutive losses, all by four points or less, costing the program a chance at the Big Ten title.
Still, Iowa did enough to earn a place in a bowl game for a third straight season and 25th time overall. The Hawkeyes own a 13-10-1 all-time record in the postseason, including a 24-14 win over Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl last season.
As far as the all-time series goes, Missouri holds a 7-5 edge over Iowa, but the teams haven't met on the gridiron since 1910.
Missouri possesses a solid offense that is averaging 30.3 ppg and 401.1 total ypg. The Tigers are balanced as well, rushing for 162.9 ypg and throwing for 238.2 ypg more, with 26 scores coming on the ground and 16 through the air. QB Blaine Gabbert makes this offense go and he has completed 62.2 percent of his pass attempts for 2,752 yards, with 15 TDs against seven INTs. He can also get the job done with his legs, rushing for 239 yards and four scores.
"We definitely had some adversity on the year," said Gabbert, a team leader. "No one gave us a shot to go 10-2. We worked hard and fought the adversity and won big games."
At Gabbert's disposal is a pair of talented outlets in TE Michael Egnew and WR T.J. Moe. Egnew leads the team in catches (83) to go with 698 yards and four scores, while Moe has 77 receptions for 893 yard sand six TDs.
In the backfield, the Tigers don't have a single rusher that has topped 500 yards yet, though the team is averaging a solid 4.8 yards per carry.
Defensively, the Tigers turned in some dominant performances this season, holding five separate opponents under 10 points, including two shutouts. Overall, Missouri is allowing just 15.2 ppg, so this unit obviously does a terrific job keeping foes out of the end zone.
While the Tigers have been tough on defense, they have given up some yards, surrendering 350.7 total ypg. The unit though, has compensated by forcing 27 turnovers, including 16 INTs, and recording 38 sacks.
Brad Madison has started just two games for the Tigers, but that hasn't stopped him from leading the team with 11.0 TFLs and 7.5 sacks. Aldon Smith has also been effective despite missing three games, as he posted 44 tackles, nine TFLs and 5.5 sacks.
Iowa's strength on offense comes from its ability to protect the ball, committing a total of just nine turnovers. It all starts with QB Ricky Stanzi, who has thrown a total of just four INTs in 324 attempts. A winner through his career, Stanzi has enjoyed a highly successful campaign, completing 64.8 percent of his tosses for 2,804 yards and 25 TDs.
"I think he's had a great year," Kirk Ferentz said. "He's had a great career. Rick is a tremendous individual that works very hard. His statistics are impressive because he's played pretty impressively."
Stanzi however, won't have the services of Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, who has been suspended following a drug-related arrest. Johnson-Koulianos had 745 receiving yards and a team-high 10 TDs during the regular season, so he will obviously be missed. Marvin McNutt though, will be available and he leads the team in catches (51) and receiving yards (798), to go with eight scores.
The Hawkeyes issued another suspension to a key player for this game in Adam Robinson, who led the team with 941 yards and 10 TDs on the ground in 10 games. True freshman Marcus Coker made three starts and ran for 403 yards during the regular season and he will get the chance to showcase his talent on a big stage with Robinson out of the way.
"You can expect him to run the ball physically and run it tough, which he likes to do," offensive coordinator Ken O'Keefe said about Coker. "This is an opponent that's going to offer some different challenges to him and one of them is going to be in the blitz pickup game. We really like the progress Marcus has made."
On the defensive side of the ball, Iowa has excelled this season, holding opponents to only 164. ppg and 317.1 total ypg. The unit has been stout versus the run, yielding just 103.5 ypg and only 3.3 yards per carry.
Iowa has also had success coming up with takeaways, registering 23 on the year. A majority of the turnovers have come via picks, as the Hawkeyes have notched 17 INTs compared to 11 passing TDs allowed.
Shaun Prater and Brett Greenwood are tied for the team-lead in INTs with four, while Micah Hyde follows with three picks. Hyde also tops the roster in PBUs with 10 and he is second in tackles with 76.
The Hawkeyes are shorthanded for this game, so go with the Tigers, who have a talented offense and defense to come away with the victory.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Missouri 27, Iowa 23