Florida Gators 8-4 (4-7 ATS) vs. Iowa Hawkeyes 8-4 (6-6 ATS)
When and Where: Monday, Jan. 2, Raymond James Stadium, 1:00pm EST (ABC)
Spread: Florida -2.5; Total: 40.5
The 17th-ranked Florida Gators make the short trip to Tampa for the Outback Bowl the day after New Year’s Day. Florida comes into the contest riding a two-game slide after bad losses to Florida State and then Alabama in the SEC Title game. Conversely, Iowa has won three-straight games. On the season the Gators won the SEC East, but only played nine-games due to rescheduling conflicts because of Hurricane Matthew. The Hawkeyes finished tied for second-place with Nebraska, one game behind Wisconsin, in the Big Ten West. All three previous meetings between the two schools came in Bowl Games in the state of Florida. UF won 14-6 in the 1983 Gator Bowl, and Iowa won 37-17 in the 2004 Outback Bowl. The Gators avenged that loss two years later in Tampa, 31-24.
Gators Looking to Growl
Florida is all set for their third matchup with Iowa in the Outback Bowl in the last 12 years. The squads split the previous two meetings. “The word around our league is this is the one you want to go to,” Gators head coach Jim McElwain said. “It’s run by great people, they do great things for the fans, obviously the players, and always put a great show on. It should be a fun matchup.” I can say personally, having covered the game in the past, that it is the game you want to cover as a member of the media (they give you Outback Steaks at halftime!).
Last time out, Florida lost 54-16 to the amateur NFL team from Tuscaloosa. The squad hopes to rebound against their Big Ten opponent, but things did not go so well in coach Mac’s bowl debut a season ago when they were destroyed by Michigan in the Florida Citrus Bowl (or whatever they call it these days). That last time UF went to the Outback Bowl they took out a Joe Paterno led Penn State squad, 37-24. The SEC East Title this season was the school’s second consecutive, and they clinched it by beating Louisiana State in Baton Rouge, 16-10. The mighty Gators have missed a bowl game just once in the last 26 years and are appearing in their 43rd all-time bowl. All-time, they are batting .500 in the postseason, with a 21-21 record.
Hawkeyes Hoping to Close Strong
After an early season loss to FCS side North Dakota State, there were not exactly high hopes for Iowa to do much this season. Two weeks later the team dropped a contest to Northwestern at home and the situation seemed worse. To the Hawkeyes credit, the squad rallied and won all the rest of their games except meetings with highly-ranked Wisconsin and Penn State (the latter on the road). They also picked up very solid wins along the way against the likes of Michigan and Nebraska.
This will be their fifth appearance in the Outback Bowl with the squad having a 2-2 record in previous Outback Bowl contests. Besides the meetings with the Gators, they beat South Carolina in 2009 and lost to LSU in 2010. The school had played in a Bowl game 29 previous times, and like the Florida, is beating .500 with a 14-14-1 record. The team ranks ninth in the nation with red zone offense, having scored in 35 of their 38 trips inside the 20.
- 1-4-1 ATS last 6 neutral site games.
- 5-2 ATS last 7 bowl games.
- 6-2 ATS last 8 neutral site games.
Florida’s defense is solid, like real solid. This should be a really ugly game as Iowa’s defense is no slouch either. Both offenses are not very impressive, but Florida’s defense is a bit of a game-changer. Look for Florida to win the battle of field position and for kicker Eddy Pineiro to kick his squad to a win in a 16-10 type contest.
Pick: Florida -2.5
This looks to be a battle of defenses. Florida’s is ranked sixth nationally while Iowa’s comes in ranked 24th in the country. Neither offense is particularly impressive to boot. The Gators are averaging 23.4 points per game and the Hawkeyes have managed 26.8 per contest but those numbers have mostly come against against defenses that are not as good as either team will face on Jan. 2.