Head coaches trade compliments as the Outback Bowl nears
TAMPA, Fla. - When asked what Southeastern Conference football team the University of Iowa reminded him of, South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier reached deep into his pocket of compliments and settled on Alabama.
"I guess you could say maybe Alabama plays a little bit like Iowa," Spurrier said at an Outback Bowl media conference Sunday at the Quroum Hotel. "Alabama's a run-the-ball, throw-the-ball combination team. Obviously Iowa runs the ball as good as anybody in the country. We'll certainly be tested trying to stop Shonn Greene."
Alabama might also be a `run-the-ball, throw-the-ball' team, which just happened to go undefeated in eight regular-season SEC games and takes a 12-1 record into the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 2. UI head coach Kirk Ferentz would have appreciated the flattery a bit more if the Gamecocks and Crimson Tide had played this season.
On paper, there are probably more similarities between South Carolina and Iowa than between any of the other teams in the SEC or Big Ten. Both were 6-6 overall last season (with both narrowly missing a bowl game) and both used two quarterbacks a significant amount during the 2008 season. The Hawkeyes (8-4 overall, 5-3 Big Ten) play South Carolina (7-5, 4-4 SEC) on Thursday, Jan. 1, with a 10 a.m. (Iowa time) kickoff from Raymond James Stadium.
Ferentz and Spurrier met with the media for more than 30 minutes Sunday with Ferentz again echoing his appreciation for being in a fifth January bowl game in seven seasons as well as being in a climate with sun and 80 degree temperatures.
"We probably have more to be grateful for than maybe Steve and the Gamecocks with our weather in the Midwest," Ferentz said. "It's been tough since Thanksgiving. It's great to get outdoors, great to feel the warm sun -- we've had cold sun, but warm sun is great."
Ferentz was asked by a member of the South Carolina media why the Hawkeyes arrived in Tampa on Dec. 24.
When it came to analyzing the Gamecocks, Ferentz praised their offense that was third in the SEC in passing offense and seventh in total offense.
"It's no big surprise the passing game is strong and very effective," he said. "They have a great corps of receivers, the tight ends are excellent in the passing game and they've played a couple quarterbacks and that adds a little bit of intrigue to the preparation."
Spurrier said that freshman Tampa-native Stephen Garcia will get the nod over sophomore Chris Smelley, who started nine times this season and Tommy Beecher, who started once. Garcia completed 53.8-percent of his passes for 753 yards and six touchdowns (107.6 yards per game). Smelley completed 65.5-percent of his passes for 1,743 yards and 13 touchdowns (158.5 yards per game). Smelley threw 15 interceptions.
South Carolina led the SEC in pass defense and was fourth in total defense. Ferentz expects to see multiple sets and he said the Gamecocks play well against both the run and the pass.
"We anticipate they're going to try to stop the run," Ferentz said. "That's usually where defense starts and they've done a good job of that all season.
Spurrier spent some time talking about his coaching career that took him from the USFL to Duke, to Florida, to the NFL and now at South Carolina.
Then he was asked about Ferentz spending the last 10 seasons at Iowa.
"Kirk's longevity," he repeated. "I guess he's been winning pretty well. He hasn't had a need to make a change and he does things the right way and that's why you stay somewhere a long time. Stay competitive."