2010 Orange Bowl
Georgia Tech (-3.5, 50.5) vs. Iowa
Tuesday, Jan. 5, 8 p.m.
The BCS bowls are always a big deal, but if there is one this year that is an afterthought it is definitely the Orange Bowl. There are some sexy matchups this year, but a showdown between an ACC champion which lost to two of the three best teams it faced and the second best team in the Big Ten that somehow managed to lose to Northwestern isn't exactly the kind of pairing that has people drooling. That seems to be the theme for this game in recent years. The game was one to look forward to in 2005 when USC and Oklahoma played for the National Championship (and even that game turned out to be a dud), but since then the pairings have been less than brilliant.
This is the game we are stuck with, though - the ACC champ heads to this game if they aren't playing in the National Championship Game, and Iowa is attractive because people are desperate to get out of Iowa in winter, so they will go almost anywhere to watch the team play. The upside, at least, is that the teams have the potential to play a more interesting game than it would first seem.
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Iowa has played in this game just once before, and it wasn't pretty - they were beaten up by USC in 2003. Georgia Tech is making their first Orange Bowl appearance since 1967, but they have lots of history in this game - they are 3-2 in five appearances dating back to 1940. The 2003 Orange Bowl was Iowa's only other BCS appearance, while Georgia Tech will be making their BCS debut this year. Not surprisingly, given the geography of the two schools, this is the first time they will meet on the field.
There is no reason to think that motivation is going to be an issue for either team here. Neither team has a lot of BCS experience, and both have enjoyed seasons that exceeded both their recent performances and their expectations for this year. Georgia Tech is on a rapid rise – Coach Paul Johnson has a conference championship in just his second year with the program, and the way that they are playing and recruiting means that this could be just the beginning. Iowa has enjoyed more success under Kirk Ferentz, but this year is a step forward from their 9-4 mark last year, and puts more distance between them and the three poor years they endured starting in 2005.
A win will guarantee either team at least a Top 10 ranking at the end of this year, and put them in good position to finish off their recruiting class and start the season next year. It's hard to imagine either team working noticeably harder than the other in this one.
The most interesting games happen when one team's strength runs headlong into the strength of the other, because only one team can typically assert themselves like they would like to. That is certainly the case here.
Iowa lives and dies by their defense. They have the 11th-best defense in the country by yards allowed, and 10th by points allowed. They are pretty evenly balanced against the run and the pass as well. For the most part, teams don't get away with much without working for it.
They will be facing a Georgia Tech offense that gained the second most rushing yards per game in the country. The Yellow Jackets are relentless on the ground, and make no attempt to mix it up or aim for balance - they never attempted more than 16 passes in a game all year, and often threw less than 10. They have countless different looks they can throw at you, and a hundred ways to confuse you. Iowa plays in a conference that likes to run the ball as well, but they haven't seen a team that does it like Georgia Tech does - because there really isn't one. Whichever team can establish themselves here will have the clear edge in the game.
On an individual level, the game boils down to two players on each side. Senior linebackers A.J. Edds and Pat Angerer are the heart and soul of the Iowa defense, and both have a good shot at playing on Sundays. They'll be staring Georgia Tech running back Jonathan Dwyer and quarterback Josh Nesbitt in the eyes all game, looking to set a tone. Iowa will hit harder than most opponents Georgia Tech has faced, and those two linebackers will be looking to intimidate and get an edge.
When the opposite units are on the field it won't be nearly as interesting to watch. Iowa has an offense that is stuck in the bottom third in the country, but they come up against a Georgia Tech defense that is middle of the pack nationally. We can assume, then, that Iowa will be able to put some points on the board, but that they won't pile them on. Georgia Tech averages 12 more points per game than Iowa. For Iowa to win, it seems more reasonable that they will have to rely on their defense to slow down the opposition rather than their offense to try to keep pace.
Line Value and Orange Bowl Odds
The line movement in this game has been significant. It opened with Georgia Tech favored by 2.5, and has since moved to 3.5, and even four in some places. You always have to take special note of a game in which the line moves through the key number of three. This one is particularly important because the public is split in their action - Georgia Tech has drawn slightly more of the bets, but it's essentially even. For the line to move through such a significant number with bets split like that it almost certainly means that smart money was on the Yellow Jackets fairly heavily from the start. The total has stayed stable, for the most part - it opened at 51, and is widely available either there or at 50.5. That suggests that the number that was posted was pretty solid.
Orange Bowl Predictions
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I'm all over Georgia Tech in this one. Iowa has a solid defense but they are far from perfect - Michigan and Ohio State both put some points on the board against them. They haven't seen anything like Georgia Tech, and I'm not sure that you can get ready for a team like this just from watching tape. The Yellow Jackets will score some points, and I have absolutely no faith in the ability of the Hawkeyes' offense to keep pace.