The Hawkeyes saw very little option this season and certainly nothing like what Georgia Tech is going to throw at them in Miami. Michigan rushed for 195 yards against Iowa, but the Hawkeyes still managed to pull out a 30-28 win early October. Ohio State also found success on the ground against Iowa. The Buckeyes ran for 229 yards in a 27-24 overtime win against Iowa on Nov. 14.
But for the most part, the Hawkeyes defense has been exceptional, and it ranks 10th in the nation in total defense.
Offensively, Iowa is expecting a spark from the return of quarterback Ricky Stanzi, who missed the majority of the Hawkeyes' last three games, two of which were losses.
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: The Jackets' option attack ranks second nationally in rushing (307.2 yards per game), with QB Josh Nesbitt, B-back Jonathan Dwyer, and A-back Anthony Allen the primary cogs. Nesbitt's improvement as a passer has helped WR Demaryius Thomas become the nation's breakout receiver. The 6-3 junior is averaging a ridiculous 25.1 yards per catch, with eight touchdowns. Injuries to the offensive line haven't slowed the Yellow Jackets, who average 35.3 points per game.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: This unit has been shredded in back-to-back games by Georgia and Clemson, despite the presence of ACC Defensive Player of the Year Derrick Morgan. The junior defensive end has 18 tackles for loss and will be a high first-round pick if he jumps to the NFL. Tech, which has been pushed around up front, is giving up nearly 25 points a game and 5.0 yards per carry. LB Brad Jefferson (90 tackles) and S Morgan Burnett (77 tackles, four interceptions) are making lots of stops but many are coming several yards downfield, not near the line of scrimmage.
MATCHUP TO WATCH: Georgia Tech DE Derrick Morgan vs. Iowa LT Bryan Bulaga -- Morgan, the ACC Defensive Player of the Year, had a monster season (18 tackles for loss, 12.5 sacks) and preserved the ACC championship with a fourth-down stop. He has faced few tackles as good as Bulaga, a 6-6, 315-pounder named Big 10 Lineman of the Year. Both are juniors likely to be high NFL draft picks.
OTHER KEY MATCHUPS: Georgia Tech S Morgan Burnett vs. Iowa WR Marvin McNutt -- Burnett is the Yellow Jackets' top playmaker in the secondary. He's second on the team in tackles and leads in interceptions with four. Burnett will have to keep a close tab on McNutt. Iowa's top deep threat has seven touchdown receptions, including a 92-yarder against Indiana.
Georgia Tech's dynamic offensive duo vs. Iowa's dominating defensive duo -- The Yellow Jackets love to pound away at the middle of a defense with B-back Jonathan Dwyer and QB Josh Nesbitt, before going wide on an option pitch. But a pair of All-Americans, DT Bryan Bulaga and LB Pat Angerer, bolster the middle of Iowa's defense and have shown the ability to shut down power running games. Only one team rushed for more than 200 yards against Iowa this season.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "The break for the bowl game is going to come at a great time. We've got to get some guys back healthy. We've lost a lot of guys." -- Coach Paul Johnson, referring to injuries along both lines.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
BOWL BREAKDOWN: Georgia Tech vs. Iowa, Orange Bowl, Jan. 5, Miami -- Georgia Tech makes its sixth trip to the Orange Bowl, but first since 1967. Iowa's only previous appearance came in 2003, when it lost to USC. Tech brings the nation's No. 11 offense, while Iowa boasts the No. 11 defense. Many observers believe LSU was able to shut down Tech in the 2008 Chick-fil-A Bowl because the Tigers had a month to prepare for Paul Johnson's option offense. Iowa will try to follow the same script. Except this year, Tech's offense is more diverse and explosive.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
B-back Jonathan Dwyer -- Most expect this will be his last college game. The burly junior (1,346 rushing yards, 14 TDs) took over the ACC Championship late in the game, carrying the last four times on Tech's game-winning touchdown drive. His role in the offense requires him to take a pounding on every play, but Dwyer never seems to wear down.
QB Josh Nesbitt -- The junior has rushed for 18 touchdowns, thrown for 10 and almost always delivers in the clutch. Nesbitt's improved accuracy has made the Tech offense nearly unstoppable.
DE Derrick Morgan -- The junior leads the ACC with 18 tackles for loss. He has preserved several victories, including the ACC Championship Game when he chased down Clemson QB Kyle Parker on fourth down. Despite double teams, Morgan has 12.5 sacks and two forced fumbles.
A-back Anthony Allen -- The Louisville transfer averages 9.8 yards per carry and is lethal on option tosses. Allen has tremendous speed and is powerful enough to run over defenders.
--B-back Jonathan Dwyer took some snaps at A-back in the ACC title game, a wrinkle that proved effective and could be used again in the Orange Bowl. Dwyer has 17 100-yard rushing games, third-most in school history.
--The secondary got a boost when S Dominique Reese and CB Jerrard Tarrant each got their first interceptions in the ACC title game. Tarrant's 50-yard interception return was Tech's longest since 2006.