Florida Gators vs. Iowa Hawkeyes Outback Bowl Expert Picks and Predictions
by Chris Vasile - 12/29/2016
Florida Gators vs. Iowa Hawkeyes, Monday Jan. 2, 1 p.m. ET
The Outback Bowl takes place at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa Bay, Florida, and has been contested 30 times before this year. The inaugural Outback Bowl game took place in 1995 between Penn State and Auburn. Penn State emerged victorious by a score of 43-13. However, prior to 1995, this bowl game was called the Hall of Fame Bowl and it was contested eight times. This bowl game has ties exclusively to the SEC and Big Ten as both conferences are signed until well into 2020. Typically, this game is high-scoring, with the winning team reaching at least 30 points in seven of the last eight games. This year's edition might put that streak in jeopardy as the low-scoring Florida Gators are set to do battle with another low-scoring team, the Iowa Hawkeyes.
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Florida will be making their 43rd bowl appearance dating back to 1952. They own a 21-21 record overall and have alternated wins and losses over their last four bowl games. Their last bowl win came in 2014 against East Carolina in the Birmingham Bowl. Last year, they lost to Michigan in the Citrus Bowl.
For Iowa, this will be their 30th bowl appearance dating back to 1957. They had two appearances in 1957 and 1959 in the Rose Bowl, which were both victories, but they never made a bowl game after that until 1982. Overall, they have a record of 14-14-1 and have lost four straight bowl games from 2011-2016. Their last win was in the 2010 Insight Bowl.
Outback Bowl Betting Storylines
Florida comes into this game with an 8-4 record, which was good enough for first in the SEC East and a spot in the SEC conference tittle game, which they lost. They are currently riding a two-game losing streak and have not won a game for over a month - dating back to Nov. 19 against LSU. Florida typically does things the hard way. They rely heavily on their defense as the offense often leaves a lot to be desired. They average a shade more than 23 points per game on offense while giving up 18 points per game defensively. They are led by senior transfer Austin Appleby, who took over at quarterback for an injured Luke Del Rio. Appleby's numbers are not that impressive - 1,225 yards passing, eight touchdowns and five interceptions in seven games. To his credit, though, he has been better down the stretch, completing better than 60 percent of his passes over the course of the last four games. He will look to get to the ball to his favorite receiver, Antonio Callaway, who has a stat line of 47/666/3. Defensively, the Gators rank sixth in the nation in total defense at 296.8 yards per game. They have, however, been roughed up in their last two outings, giving up a whopping 483 yards rushing to Alabama and Florida State. They could be in trouble against the dynamic rushing duo of Akrum Wadley and LeShun Daniels Jr. To make matters worse, their defensive coordinator just signed on to be the head coach at Temple, which means they will have an unfamiliar voice dialing up the defense.
Iowa comes into this game with an 8-4 record, which is good enough for second place in the Big Ten West. The Hawkeyes finished the regular season on a three-game winning streak, outscoring opponents 82-23. In the regular-season finale they put the final nail in the coffin on Nebraska's Big Ten title hopes, dismantling the Cornhuskers by a 40-10 score. Offensively, Iowa averages 26.8 points per game and gives up 18. Like Florida, the Hawkeyes tend to rely on their defense to create big plays and start the offense off with great field position. However, unlike Florida, the Hawkeyes actually have some pieces on offense that scare opposing teams. They are led offensively by senior quarterback, C.J. Beathard. Beathard has thrown for 1,874 yards, 17 touchdowns and only seven INTs this season. While that is solid production for a QB on a run-first team, he should be content with the "game-manager" tag since he has two great running backs to hand the ball off to. LeShun Daniels, Jr. rushed for just more than 1,000 yards this season and found the end zone 10 times. His teammate, Wadley, found the end zone 10 times himself while rushing for 966 yards.
Outback Bowl Odds and Betting Trends
The game opened with Floridafavored by two points at Mybookie.ag. Currently, the line has been bet up and the Gators are now laying 3.5. The total has stayed steady at 40.5, -110.
The Gators are 6-2 ATS in their last eight games on a neutral field but are a terrible 0-7 ATS in their last seven against nonconference opponents. As you could imagine, the "under" is 4-0 in their last four games on grass and 5-1 in their last six against teams with a winning record.
Iowa is 5-2 ATS in their last seven games overall but just 1-4-1 in their last six on a neutral field. They tend to play to the under in those neutral-site games, posting an 8-3 record.
Florida Gators vs. Iowa Hawkeyes-Outback Bowl Expert Picks & Predictions
These two teams come into this game on completely different paths. Iowa was unlucky to have been left out of the Big Ten title game after slipping up early in the season and losing back-to-back games. They finished the regular season in fine form and will be looking to finish the season off with their program's 15th bowl win.
Florida comes limping into this game on the heels of two absolute ass-kickings by two superior teams. The offense is playing about as bad as you can possibly play, and the defense has been gashed for big play after big play. To make matters worse, the defense will be without their signal caller, Geoff Collins, who was just hired to take over the vacant head coaching spot at Temple.
If you are a big football fanatic like myself, and have watched the Gators' play football over the last month or two, you will know deep down that this offense shouldn't scare anyone, especially not Iowa, who constantly has to play high-scoring offenses in the Big Ten.
I like what coach Kirk Ferentz has done to this Iowa program over the last few years. He has made them mentally tough and implanted a solid run game with a nice complimentary passing attack. I believe Iowa will have the best players on the field at all times, and I fully expect them to go into Tampa Bay and leave as the 2016 Outback Bowl champions.
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