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Archive for December, 2008

Prediction: Hawks win … barely

Wednesday, December 31st, 2008

For all the pregame talk about Shonn Greene and two of the nation’s best defenses, the outcome of Thursday’s 23rd annual Outback Bowl is going to come down to the relative efficiency of two young quarterbacks.

South Carolina’s defense is good enough to contain, if not completely stop, Iowa’s ground game, led by Greene. And the Gamecocks really don’t have much of a ground attack. They finished last in the SEC in rushing yardage.

All of that points to a tight, low-scoring game that easily could pivot on an untimely turnover by Iowa’s Ricky Stanzi or Carolina’s Stephen Garcia.

Stanzi will have some openings because the Gamecocks are going to load up in an effort to become the first team to hold Greene under 100 yards. If Stanzi can capitalize on those opportunities, South Carolina is in trouble. I could see Andy Brodell, whose best game ever came in the 2006 Alamo Bowl, catching a couple of deep balls on play-action passes.

Garcia, a redshirt freshman who has made only two career starts, is the biggest X factor in this game. He is, by all accounts, immensely talented as both a runner and passer but often forgets assignments, freelances, grows impatient for plays to develop or all of the above. He has taken almost every snap in practice since the regular season ended 4½ weeks ago and should be more mentally prepared than ever before. He could hurt the Hawkeyes as much with his feet as his arm.

While many Iowa fans believe their team will win easily, the only way that happens is if South Carolina helps them out with a slew of turnovers. The current Vegas point spread of four points looks pretty accurate to me.

Prediction: Iowa 17, South Carolina 13

Bumble bees gathering

Tuesday, December 30th, 2008

So much for all that talk about the economy making it impossible for some Iowa fans to make their annual bowl trip. I’ve been to a dozen other Iowa bowl games through the year and there seems to be as many bumble bees here as ever.

They greatly outnumbered the South Carolina fans at the bowl beach party on Tuesday. There were about 9,000 of them at the Tuesday night Hawkeye Huddle. Maybe they were all the same people that were at the beach but since the two events were 25 miles and only a few hours apart, that’s doubtful.
Word has it that Iowa fans also have pretty much commandeered a couple of drinking establishments in the Channelside area.

Someone speculated that maybe all the South Carolina fans will be arriving later since it’s a fairly easy one-day drive down here for most of them. I’m betting they’re still outnumbered and out-cheered Thursday morning in Raymond James Stadium.

Close calls

Monday, December 29th, 2008

Iowa’s workout facility here at the University of Tampa is a nice enough location. The field is good and it sits close to downtown, in the shadow of the city’s picturesque skyline.

But to get from the practice field to their dressing room in the Bob Martinez Sports Center, the players must trudge across a fairly busy street, North Boulevard. It was busier than ever when practice ended Monday at about 5:30 p.m. and they had a traffic cop out there stopping cars so the players could cross.

At one point, a car nearly disregarded the policeman’s signals and started into the intersection just as two Hawkeyes did. The driver stopped quickly, the players stepped back onto the curb and we can assume defensive coordinator Norm Parker breathed a large sigh of relief.

The two players were stalwart defensive tackles Mitch King and Matt Kroul.

Not in Iowa anymore

Sunday, December 28th, 2008

It didn’t take long after arriving here in Tampa today to be reminded that I’m no longer in Iowa. As I was walking into a local restaurant in a decent neighborhood tonight, some scruffy-looking guy was perched in the doorway. He asked if I could give him some money for a meal. After being seated, I noticed that the large woman with the huge earings seated at the next table was speaking in a distinctly male voice.

Panhandlers. Cross-dressers. You can’t get this kind of stuff back home. It should be an interesting week.

Temporary blackout

Monday, December 15th, 2008

 You know how when astronauts return from outer space there is a period of several minutes when they lose radio contact with mission control? That’s sort of what this week is like on the local college football scene.

 

Iowa has accepted a bid to play South Carolina in the Jan. 1 Outback Bowl and we all know the Hawkeyes are holding practices, but for a period of a week or two we won’t hear anything about how the workouts are going, who is injured, who is healthy, etc. The silence will end later this week when coach Kirk Ferentz holds a news conference. But for now there is basically zero news trickling out of the Iowa camp.

 

There is a smattering of news from the South Carolina side. Head coach Steve Spurrier, who has been given to public tongue lashings of players and assistant coaches, has promised to try to be more positive and upbeat as the Gamecocks get ready for the Hawkeyes.

 

Spurrier benched his star tight end, Jared Cook, for the second half of a season-ending loss to Clemson and the next day he benched quarterback Chris Smelley for the bowl game. He also fired offensive line coach John Hunt. More recently, he kicked two players – both reserves – off the team for repeated violations of team rules.

 

How will all this affect the upcoming game? Spurrier’s team will either be fired up to try to please the coach or flatter than a pancake. We won’t know for sure until 10 a.m. on Jan. 1.