Location: Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, FL
Date and Time: January 2, 1 PM ET (ABC)
Bold prediction: The 2016 Outback Bowl will not be the highest scoring game of the bowl season.
Looking for a more detailed explanation as to why that will be the case? Here it is:
Florida finished 115th in total offense this season. Iowa finished 120th.
But while offense lovers should look elsewhere for January 2 entertainment, this game will still offer up a battle between two very good teams.
For the Gators, it was a season that included another SEC East title, with the biggest win of the year being the division-clinching victory in Baton Rouge over LSU. And although the offensive inconsistencies prevented this team from being better than it could have been, the defense was able to pick up the slack.
The Gators finished tied for 10th in the country in total defense, and ironically enough, the team they tied with was Iowa. Both teams allowed 17.9 points per game this season.
There’s another reason to expect a low-scoring affair.
Meanwhile, the Hawkeyes are riding an impressive three-game winning streak. Iowa dropped Michigan, Illinois, and Nebraska in its last three games of the season, which is certainly nothing to take lightly. The 14-13 win over Michigan and 40-10 win over Nebraska were examples of what the Hawkeye defense is capable of, and those two offenses were better than Florida’s.
That’s where the play of Austin Appleby enters the picture. Appleby’s numbers weren’t anything special: 1,225 yards, eight touchdowns, and five interceptions in eight appearances.
He could never find enough consistency to get the Gator offense going for good, which showed in the fact that Florida didn’t score more than 20 points in a game in its final five contests. The level of competition had something to do with that, but it’s hard to win a lot of games that way.
If there’s a positive from the 54-16 thrashing at the hands of Alabama in the SEC championship game, it’s that Appleby and the Florida offense looked great on its first drive. The Gators ended Alabama’s 273-minute streak without allowing a touchdown, but unfortunately, the Crimson Tide defense took over from there.
However, Appleby was still able to build a bit of confidence in seeing what potential is there when everything clicks.
Will everything click against Iowa? That’s the million-dollar question.
The Hawkeyes will enter this game riding high after the excellent Big Ten wins to end the season. Some of that momentum will be hampered by the delay between games, but it’ll still be there.
And in the quarterback battle, Iowa’s C.J. Beathard has simply been the better of the two. He won’t have an easy time against a rested Florida defense, however, he’ll make the Gators earn it. Iowa finished second in the nation in turnovers lost, with Beathard’s crew only turning it over nine times all year.
Even with those things in favor of the Hawkeyes, I still have a feeling that Florida wins this game.
Appleby must take care of the ball for that to happen. Luckily, even if he turns it over a time or two, he’ll get help from his excellent defense in leading the Gators to a close victory in Tampa.
Outback Bowl Prediction: Florida 20 Iowa, 17
Other SEC Bowl Predictions
- Sugar Bowl: Auburn vs. Oklahoma
- TaxSlayer Bowl: Kentucky vs. Georgia Tech
- Citrus Bowl: LSU vs. Louisville
- Music City Bowl: Tennessee vs. Nebraska
- Liberty Bowl: Georgia vs. TCU
- Belk Bowl: Arkansas vs. Virginia Tech
- Birmingham Bowl: South Carolina vs. USF
- Texas Bowl: Texas A&M vs. Kansas State
- Independence Bowl: Vandy vs. NC State
- St. Petersburg Bowl: Mississippi State vs. Miami (OH)