OUTBACK BOWL: Iowa Offense Preview

Iowa's offense took a while to hit its stride in 2005, much later in the season than most experts anticipated. This year was to be the opposite of 2004 where the defense carried the load as the offense dealt with the loss of its top four running backs that went down with various injuries, including two ACL tears early in the season.

This year's Iowa defensive line was all new as three of last year's front four had moved on to the NFL.

However, the offense did not carry its share of the load but when it got untracked, it certainly was a force to be reckoned with. Iowa averaged 480.5 yards per game over its final four contests against teams that qualified for bowls this year. That included a 613 yard performance against Minnesota in the season finale.

Last year's Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year was Iowa quarterback Drew Tate, who accomplished that trick as a true sophomore. In this his junior season, Tate put up similar overall numbers but was much more efficient and did not make as many mistakes.

Iowa averaged 291.3 passing yards per game over the last four games of the year with Tate passing for nearly all of them. On the year, Tate was 187-297 with six interceptions and 19 touchdown passes. His passer rating is 150.2, good for 13th in the nation.

Tate is much more comfortable throwing on the run outside the pocket, and Iowa will utilize several "rolling pocket" plays on offense. He is very elusive and hard to tackle; he is at his best in "pick up league" type plays, where things break down and he can create on the outside. He has a great rapport with his receivers in these situations, as Iowa is very disciplined to roll with Tate's motion and find the open spaces.

His favorite targets are a pair of seniors; #11 Ed Hinkel and #88 Clinton Solomon. Hinkel is your prototypical "possession" receiver with seemingly every grab going for a first down or a touchdown. His excellent route running skills allow him to get separation against defensive backs that have better straight line speed. Hinkel had over 150 receiving yards and four touchdown grabs in Iowa's season finale.

Solomon is a 6-4, 200-pound deep threat. He can be spectacular at times, but his hands are inconsistent. Should he pull it all together in a game he can be a difference maker. He has a great stiff arm move that allows him to pile up YAC gains.

Iowa tight end Scott Chandler (#87) led the Big Ten in receiving yards this year, gaining nearly 500 yards through the air on over 40 catches. He can be a mismatch against linebackers and defensive backs due to his 6-foot-7 inch frame. He is the brother of former Iowa quarterback Nathan Chandler who led Iowa to its 37-17 win against Florida in the 2004 Outback Bowl.

True freshman Tony Moeaki (#81) is a star in the making; he has all the physical tools that you want in an elite tight end. He is already a competent blocker and his speed and soft hands will likely earn him a ticket to the NFL if he stays healthy. With the pre-bowl practice time, it would not surprise me if Iowa chose this game as his coming out party.

Iowa's offense was powered by sophomore running back Albert Young. He was the lone sophomore among the 10 finalists for the Doak Walker Award that goes to the nation's top running back each year. He has 1,300 rushing yards on the year and he is a good receiving option as well. He ranked tenth among NCAA rushers at season's end and 14th in all-purpose yardage. Young has a seven-game streak of where he has gained at least 100-yards rushing, all accomplished in Big Ten play. He is averaging 146.25 yards per game on the ground over his last four games, all of those contests coming against teams that were invited to bowls this year.

Backup Damien Sims is a threat to break one to the house any time he touches the ball, but Young is the bell cow; he is averaging 29.5 carries per game over his last six contests.

Young proved to be the perfect back for Iowa's 'zone' rushing play. He is patient enough to wait for the holes to develop on the outside, he has good vision for the cutback move and he will put his head down and power for the extra yards.

Iowa's offensive line has been relatively healthy all year and they were a well-oiled machine down the stretch. Iowa ranks 22nd in total offense nationally and 35th in scoring offense.

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