After enjoying three of the six bowl games on Thursday, you better buckle up for an exciting slate of games on New Year’s Day. One of those games is the Rose Bowl between Stanford and Iowa, which can be seen on ESPN at 5 p.m. EST.
Storylines Heading Into the Game
Very Similar Offenses
When this matchup was first announced, one of the many things that came to mind was the similar offensive strategy of both squads. Nowadays, fewer and fewer offenses are using fullbacks, but Iowa and Stanford are arguably two of the most recognized teams for their use of a fullback. However, don’t think for one second that this game will be boring, because both offenses average over 30 points a game.
Can Iowa Complete a Dream Season?
Besides Iowa fans, it is fair to say that nobody really expected the Hawkeyes to have a 12-win season and play in the Rose Bowl, but they absolutely deserve it. Although Iowa’s schedule was a bit on the easier side, there is no denying what they were able to do against teams like Northwestern, Wisconsin, and Michigan State.
Kevin Hogan’s Last Game
Trying to follow up what Andrew Luck was able to do at Stanford would be a tall task for anyone, but Kevin Hogan stepped up and did a fantastic job. Totaling 9,215 passing yards and 35 wins over his four years in Palo Alto, Hogan led the Cardinal to three Rose Bowls, and is seeking his second Rose Bowl victory on Jan. 1 against Iowa. Now the question is: who will follow up Andrew Luck AND Kevin Hogan?
146- The average amount of rush yards that the Stanford defense allowed per game this season. Playing against a Hawkeye team that revolves their game plan around establishing the run, Stanford cannot let Iowa control the line of scrimmage if they want a shot at winning the Rose Bowl. In Stanford’s two losses (Northwestern and Oregon), their defense allowed over 220 rushing yards, so that will be something to watch as the game unfolds.
334- The average amount of total yards that the Iowa defense allowed per game this season. In a game that will feature Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey, who finished second in the Heisman voting, it will be difficult to keep the Cardinal from racking up yards, but the 21st-ranked defense in the nation is capable of slowing down McCaffrey and company.
268- The amount of all-purpose yards that Christian McCaffrey averaged per game this season. In addition to his production in the run game, McCaffrey also returns kicks and is a very effective pass catcher. Basically, whenever the ball is in his hands, good things happen for the Cardinal.
C.J. Beathard, QB, Iowa
With the departure of Jake Rudock, Beathard was able to take over the starting job for the Hawkeyes and he didn’t disappoint. Throwing 15 touchdown passes and only four interceptions, Beathard efficiently ran Kirk Ferentz’s run-heavy offense to near perfection. If the Hawkeyes want to beat Stanford, Beathard will have to make sure his first few throws are on target so that the Stanford linebackers begin to back up, allowing some openings in the run game.
Christian McCaffrey, RB, Stanford
The Heisman runner-up will be the main focus in Iowa’s defensive game plan, but preparing for him is one thing, lining up across from him in a game is a totally different monster. Moreover, McCaffrey has been the key to Stanford’s offense all season long and it will not be changing in the biggest game of the year. If you still need convincing, check out the highlight video above.
Why Iowa Wins
Iowa can win the Rose Bowl if they are able to limit the big plays generated by Christian McCaffrey and win the line of scrimmage battle on both sides of the ball. Also, the Hawkeyes have the ability to put up points, and taking a few chances on some deep throws will open up the rest of Kirk Ferentz’s playbook. Iowa was kind of a “Cinderella” type of team this season, so it’s safe to say a Rose Bowl victory would be a great end to an awesome season.
Why Stanford Wins
Stanford can win the Rose Bowl if they play very disciplined on defense and win the turnover battle in a game where possessions will come at a premium. The Cardinal have the edge on offense and they have a chance to display it on a national stage, so there is no reason to hold back. Additionally, Stanford can help their chances if they are able to get a big play or two from McCaffrey on special teams.
First of all, this is a must-watch game and if you don’t tune in for at least part of it, you better have a good excuse. Yes, it features two offenses that still use a fullback, but it also features two consistent quarterbacks, two solid defenses, and Christian McCaffrey. All in all, I think this game will come down to the last possession. Iowa will find enough success in the running game to open up the play-action pass that Beathard is quite good at, while Stanford will be playing against the best defense they’ve seen all year. My prediction is that the wild ride of a season for Iowa will end in a victory at the Rose Bowl.
Final Score: Iowa 24 – Stanford 21