In case you’ve been under a rock for a while now, or at least since Saturday, the 2017-18 college football bowl season kicked off and produced, well, some not very good games. Yeah, the Celebration Bowl was probably the best of the beginning slate thus far, the rest of the games have been lackluster from what I was able to catch or see highlights of.
This season our lovely little slice of heaven are sending two teams, both of our big boy schools, to a bowl game for the first time since 2012.
Anyways, the Iowa Hawkeyes are taking on the Boston College Eagles in the Pinstripe Bowl in New York City while the Iowa State Cyclones will head to Memphis to take on the Memphis Tigers in the Liberty Bowl, the last bowl game Iowa State went to in 2012.
Iowa’s contest is first so let’s talk a little about their game against the school that gave us Doug Flutie and Matt Ryan, probably some other players, but those are easily two of their most well known footballers. Both the Hawkeyes and Eagles come in with a 7-5 record, with Iowa probably disappointing their fan base a little this season where as BC may have overachieved a little bit.
Both teams are a run first offense with the Eagles holding an advantage in yards per game. Their workhorse back has been freshman AJ Dillion as the frosh is a 240 pound bowling ball with most of his work coming in the last eight weeks of the season where the Eagles went 6-2 in that span. The sensational freshman has ran for over 200 yards twice in that span, but he isn’t a threat out of the backfield with no catches on the season.
The BC passing game has been lackluster this season, picking up less than 2000 total yards with their leading passer Anthony Brown’s 1367 yards with just a 51.9 percent completion rate. Brown’s thrown nine interceptions, showcasing the Eagles’ struggles in the pass game.
Their defense hasn’t been sensational, giving up nearly 400 yards a contest with nearly equal numbers through the ground and air, giving up 198.4 yards on the ground. Boston College averaged exactly 387 yards a game this season and 26.2 points on offense. Their best win was against Louisville back on October 14, 45-42, or their 35-3 drubbing of Florida State on October 27.
The poor run defense should play into what Iowa likes to do, run the ball right at you. The Hawkeyes ground game never got going like many thought it should have thanks to injuries on the offensive line all season, but they still managed 142.4 yards a game. Akrum Wadley led the way with 1021 yards and nine touchdowns this season for their rushing attack.
The Iowa passing game came under fire this season with Nate Stanley showing some inconsistency under center, completing 56 percent of his passes. Despite his somewhat inaccurate throws, he was only intercepted six times and threw 25 touchdown passes. Nick Easley was the Hawkeyes’ best pass catcher with 50 of ‘em for 498 yards. Tight end Noah Fant caught 10 touchdown passes.
Overall, Iowa averaged 340 yards a game and 28 points.
Defense has been a calling card for Iowa as well and this season was no different with Josey Jewel and Josh Jackson spearheading their stop unit. Jackson had seven interceptions this year and returned two of them in the same game against Wisconsin while picking off three against Ohio State.
Iowa’s defense gave up 355.3 yards a game with over 200 coming through the air. The best win Iowa had this year was easily their 55-24 spanking of Ohio State on November 4.
Both Iowa and BC will look to get their ground game going against the other. However, I think Iowa’s a bit more battle tested as the middle of the road in the Big 10 is superior to the middle of the road in the ACC. This probably comes down to who can pass the ball a little bit better and who can stop the run.
If Iowa tackles well and hit a few key play action passes down the field, I think they’ll take this one. However, if they cannot stop BC’s Brown, it is going to be a long day for the black and gold. Still, I’ll take Iowa in a 20-14 battle.
Iowa State got an unfortunate draw in their bowl contest having to play a hometown team in the Liberty Bowl. It’s the first time in history Memphis has been able to play in the bowl game in their city so there is some historical aspect to it. Also, in 2012, Iowa State was in the Liberty Bowl and lost to Tulsa. Coincidentally, it was the last time I celebrated on a New Year’s Eve.
Memphis has a high powered offense this year and comes in with a 10-2 record, their last game an instant classic against Central Florida in the Americam Athletic Conference title game, a 62-55 loss in two overtimes. They have put up 70 points twice this season and their lowest scoring output was 30 against Navy, a game where the Midshipmen controlled the clock.
The Tigers’ offense has been putting up nearly 48 points a game and 548.2 yards per contest. Their passing attack has been lethal with 339 yards a game. They are led by senior signal caller Riley Ferguson. Ferguson has been an animal this year, passing for 3971 yards, 36 touchdowns and only nine picks. However, the best team he’s faced all year besides Central Florida was UCLA.
Their top running back is Darrell Henderson as he’s taken 130 carries and turned that into 1154 yards, an average of 8.9 yards per carry. Anthony Miller is their top pass catcher with 92 grabs for a little over 1400 yards and 17 scores.
The Memphis defense has been a porous group this year, giving up 475 yards per game, 279.4 through the air and 196.8 on the ground.
As we know, Iowa State has had a lot of transition at quarterback this season with Jacob Park taking a leave from the team and eventually has requested to transfer. Kyle Kempt, an unknown fifth year senior took the reigns and has been a dependable passer for the Cyclones. The Cyclones have averaged 389 yards of offense a game this season.
Kempt has thrown for 1473 yards with 13 touchdowns to only three interceptions. Zeb Noland has filled in on a couple of occasions for Kempt, the redshirt freshman getting some experience if Kempt were to go down.
The lifeblood of the Iowa State offense is perhaps running back David Montgomery. The sophomore has rushed for over 1000 yards, 1094 to be exact, and 11 touchdowns. He is impossible to bring down on first contact with over 100 broken tackles on the year. Allan Lazard is the top pass catcher for I-State with 61 of them for 799 yards and nine touchdowns.
Surprisingly, given Iowa State’s struggles on defense the past 100 years, the stop unit has aided the Cyclones in a majority of their games, giving up only 368 yards per game, 234 through the air and 134 on the ground. Given how Iowa State has faced powerful attacks in Big 12 play, they should have enough time to figure out how to slow down this high octane Memphis assault.
I think this comes down to exactly that. Can Iowa State’s defense slow them down like they did Oklahoma, somewhat, and TCU to pull off another upset, or will they struggle as they did in the first quarter against West Virginia and against Oklahoma State. Iowa State doesn’t get blown out all that much, and I don’t think they do here. Maybe it’s just me being an Iowa State fan, but I think they can pull off another upset in a season where everyone really didn’t expect much from them. They take this game 34-32 on a failed Memphis two point attempt late.
On the national level for the New Year’s Six and playoffs, I like the following: USC in the Cotton Bowl over Ohio State, Penn State in the Fiesta Bowl over Washington, Miami over Wisconsin in the Orange Bowl and UCF over Auburn in the Peach Bowl. In the Rose Bowl, I think Oklahoma is getting too much disrespect by the national media and will shut down the Georgia run game to advance to the finals. In the Sugar Bowl, Clemson gets the rubber game over Alabama. Bama has not impressed me a single bit this year.
So, Clemson and Oklahoma meet in the national title game. I think this is the year for Baker Mayfield to have his biggest moment and embark on a Deshaun Watson type journey to the NFL after winning the National Title. Oklahoma 49-Clemson 45.