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