OUTBACK BOWL: Gators vs. Iowa Head-to-Head

Welcome to our in-depth head to head matchup between the Florida Gators and the Iowa Hawkeyes. Our primer will give you a good idea as to what to expect during today's Outback Bowl.

Head-to-Head Matchups

Iowa offensive line vs Florida front seven

The Hawkeyes do not have a massive, overpowering offensive line. In fact, Iowa averages just 6-4 ½ 290 among their five starters. However, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t effective. The Hawkeyes have been the most effective over the last month of the season.

Center Brian Ferentz is the leader of the group that features two seniors and three juniors. The left side is manned by guard Mike Jones and tackle Ben Gates. Jones is a two year starter, who was moved inside during the season when he wasn’t as effective at tackle. Gates was limited starting in ’04 due to injury. The right side hosts guard Mike Elgin and tackle Marshal Yanda. Elgin is a two year starter who also saw action in ’03. Yanda began the season at guard and was moved to tackle for Jones. Yanda is in his first year in the program after transferring from North Iowa Community College.

Iowa quarterback Drew Tate also presents a difficult challenge for the Florida defensive front, as the Hawkeyes will utilize a rolling pocket to help protect him and negate the Gators speed.

The Gators will be without one of their most talented players, Ray McDonald, who tried to return from a knee injury, but was unable. Jarvis Moss should see plenty of playing time at D-End, with Joe Cohen capable of playing inside and spelling a player at end if necessary. With Derrick Harvey force to miss the first half after being ejected in the Florida State game, that could potentially happen.

Improvement is always the best judge, and there is no question that defensive tackle Marcus Thomas, defensive end Jeremy Mincey, and Cohen are playing the best football of the Florida careers.

Linebackers Brandon Siler, Earl Everett, and Todd McCullough have plenty of playing time between them. They have faced offensive lines as physical as Iowa’s. One problem that some teams seemingly face in the bowl layoff is the inability to tackle. Florida must wrap up Young, Tate, and Sims and not allow the Hawkeyes to get control of the line of scrimmage.

Analysis: The most recent game was the most effective for both units. Iowa ran for 236 yards and passed for 377 more yards against rival Minnesota. Florida sacked Florida State quarterback Drew Weatherford five times and shut the Seminoles down. So, what gives the Gators the edge here? Well, + 18 is and incredible turnover margin…

Slight EDGE: Florida

Iowa skills positions vs Florida secondary

Tate was much more effective this season than he was one year ago. He doesn’t have a cannon for an arm or the quickness of a Michael Vick, but he is a guy who makes plays. Tate can be very elusive, so wrapping him up will be a key for the Gators. He completed 187 of 297 for 19 touchdowns and six interceptions. Tate didn’t have a game this season where he threw more than more interception a game.

The Hawkeyes have an outstanding running back in Albert Young, who ran for 1300 yards and averaged five yards a carry. Young is a tough back, who Coach Meyer compared to Alabama’s Ken Darby during interviews this week.

Iowa has a few very talented receivers in seniors Ed Hinkel and Clinton Solomon. Hinkel is a smooth route runner, who has a keen eye for the open area. Soloman has good speed and a 6-4 frame to go with his breakaway moves. Tight end Scott Chandler seemingly always has a bulls eye on his chest. Chandler led the Big Ten in receiving yards. His 6-7 frame makes matching up against him very difficult.

The Florida secondary suffered a heavy loss when Vernell Brown went out with a broken leg and high ankle sprain. While Brown returns, his effectiveness will be severely limited. His return will play more of a role in the Gators attitude.

Losing Reggie Nelson was one of the last things they needed. He had proved to be a magnificent playmaker. The Gators will utilize Brown, true freshmen Avery Atkins, and junior Reggie Lewis opposite Dee Webb, who will have to be at his best. The three will also make up Florida’s nickle and dime formations.

Free safety Kyle Jackson figures to be picked on as well. His struggles have been well documented. Jackson has the talent, but Coach Meyer pointed this week that he has to make tackles.

Analysis: The Hawkeyes seemingly couldn’t have caught the Gators at a better time. The loss of Brown, who was Florida’s best cover corner and Nelson, a big play guy and sure tackler are key components to the Gators success.

EDGE: Iowa

Florida offensive Line vs Iowa defensive front

The Florida offensive line is in very good shape, save Tavares Washington, who dislocated his knee. Reserve guard Drew Miller worked out there this week in Washington’s place. Miller has gotten plenty of work throughout the season and has improved.

Center Mike Degory and tackles Randy Hand and Lance Butler will dress out in their Florida uniform(s) before the Orange and Blue huddled masses for the last time. It will be a game that they hope to make a statement.

Iowa has an unusually small defensive line. They average just 255 pounds. In fact, the Hawkeyes don’t have a player that weighs 265 pounds. Is this 1976?

Regardless, Iowa allowed just 93 yards rushing per game over the final six outings. They don’t ask their offensive linemen to make plays. They set the table for the linebackers to fill the gaps and make the tackle. The Hawkeyes blitzed more this year than in the past.

Linebackers Chad Greenway and Abdul Hodge are among the very best in the country. Greenway registered 147 tackles and secured a lot of attention for his ability to go to the football. Hodge is a former Ft. Lauderdale Boyd Anderson star, who has been outstanding in his own right.

Analysis: The Gators will start four seniors, provided Washington is ready to play. They were very tough against the Seminoles in their last outing. This was a group that was coming along before the bowl break.

Iowa is a very disciplined team that depends on beating offensive linemen and filling the gap. They have succeeded against several clubs this season. I’m just not convinced this senior dominated group who brings a plethora of experience to the table will be dominated by the Hawkeyes.

Slight EDGE: Florida

Florida skills positions vs Iowa secondary

Quarterback Chris Leak has had a month to prepare for the Hawkeyes under the watchful eyes of Meyer and Dan Mullen. Leak seemingly does a much better job when he has some extra time to prepare for an opponent. Coaches always hope that the time off hasn’t affected the timing between the receivers and the quarterback. Reports indicate that Leak was throwing the ball well in practice.

Running backs Kestahn Moore and Marcus Manson should see plenty of playing time. Both hit the hole hard and have demonstrated the necessary patience to wait on their blocks when the time calls for it. Both also catch the ball well out of the backfield.

The Gators are as healthy as they’ve been since the Tennessee game at receiver. Dallas Baker and Jamalle Cornelius are one-hundred percent. The Hawkeyes will also have to prepare for All-SEC receiver Chad Jackson, tight end Tate Casey, and Billy Latsko, who has caught the ball well out of the backfield. You’ll also see Cornelius Ingram for a few plays.

Iowa has two very talented senior corners in Antwan Allen and Jovon Johnson. Allen, a former Tampa Armwood grad, has received accolades from the Big Ten conference for his play. The four year starter has good speed and broke up four passes this season.

Johnson is also a four year starter, who has picked off a pair of passes this season.

Sophomore Miguel Merrick is the starting strong safety. He has 40 tackles on the season. Free safety Marcus Paschal hails from Largo, Florida and has 39 tackles on the year. Paschal picked up a fumble and returned it 38 yards.

Analysis: The Gators are getting healthy once again at wide receiver. Iowa will need more than two talented corners to stop the speedy Florida receivers. Giving Meyer and month to prepare makes things that much more interesting…

EDGE: Florida

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