2009 Outback Bowl Preview - USC vs. Iowa
So. Carolia's Kenny McKinley & Iowa's Shonn Greene
So. Carolia's Kenny McKinley & Iowa's Shonn Greene
Posted Dec 29, 2008

Happy New Year! The fun kicks off with an interesting Outback Bowl with South Carolina's Kenny McKinley and Iowa's Shonn Greene leading their respective teams in the first game of 2009. Check out the CFN Outback Bowl Preview & Prediction.

2009 Outback Bowl

Iowa (8-4) vs. South Carolina (7-5)

Jan. 1, 11:00 p.m. ET, ESPN

$3.1 million   Location: Raymond James Stadium, Tampa FL

- 2009 Outback Bowl Player Profiles, Histories, & More

National Rankings
Iowa South Carolina
Total Offense
52nd  373.92 ypg 97th  316.83ypg
Total Defense
13th  289.5 ypg 12th  288.92 ypg
Scoring Offense
35th  30.25 ppg 92nd  21.67 ppg
Scoring Defense
8th  13.25 ppg 30th  20.25 ppg
Run Offense
29th  189.33 ypg 108th  98.33 ypg
Run Defense
10th  98.25 ypg 36th  128.67 ypg
Pass Offense
89th  184.58 ypg 54th  218.50 ypg
Pass Defense
38th  191.25 ypg 3rd  160.25 ypg
Turnover Margin
29th  0.46 102nd  -0.75
Maine W 46-3
FIU W 42-0
Iowa St W 17-5
at Pitt L 21-20
Nwestern L 22-17
at Mich St L 16-13
at Indiana W 45-9
Wisconsin W 38-16
at Illinois L 27-24
Penn St W 24-23
Purdue W 22-17
at Minn. W 55-0
South Carolina
NC St W 34-0
at Vanderbilt L 24-17
Georgia L 14-7
Wofford W 23-13
UAB W 26-13
at Ole Miss W 31-24
at Kentucky W 24-17
LSU L 24-17
Tennessee W 27-6
Arkansas W 34-21
at Florida L 56-6
at Clemson L 31-14
Position Ratings
relative to each other
I 5 highest
1 lowest
2.5 Quarterbacks 3.5
5 RBs 2
3 Receivers 4
3 O Line 2
4 D Line 4
4 Linebackers 5
4.5 Secondary 5
4.5 Spec Teams 3
4 Coaching 4

South Carolina vs. Iowa might not be the most scintillating matchup on a national scale, but for two programs looking to come up with something big to build on, this game will mean everything for the starving teams that each went 6-6 last year and stayed home for the bowl season.   

This game means more to South Carolina and Steve Spurrier than it does for Iowa. Of course the Hawkeyes want to come up with the win, but this a New Year’s Day bowl is gravy considering the relatively low expectations coming into the season, and that they really should’ve been in the Alamo Bowl and Northwestern deserved to be here. For the Gamecocks, the Spurrier era hasn’t exactly been anything special. It’s not exactly Michael Jordan playing for the Washington Wizards, but there’s been little of the magic expected

This was supposed to be the year South Carolina took a big step forward, and by that standard, playing in a New Year’s Day bowl is a success. However, with the SEC down, at least compared to the past few seasons, the chances were there to make this a big year. Interceptions and the lack of a running game killed any shot of being in the SEC title hunt, but the first three of the five losses were all by a touchdown and there appeared to be hope that the team could improve as the season went on.       
Vanderbilt came up with a great first half of the year, but there’s still little honor in losing in Nashville, just like losing at home to LSU this season isn’t something to be okay about. And then came the blowout road losses to Florida (forgivable) and Clemson (not acceptable) to close out the regular season, and all of a sudden, this game becomes a must-win for Spurrier.
Iowa appeared to be going nowhere fast with a 3-3 record and little to rely on offensively outside of RB Shonn Greene. A win over Indiana was nice, but expected, and then came the 38-16 destruction of Wisconsin that seemed to spark the rest of the season. A 27-24 loss at Illinois didn’t dampen the expectations, the Illini needed one of its best games of the year to come up with the win, and then came the win over Penn State that made Iowa a player of a program again.
Without a bowl win in three seasons, Iowa could use the springboard of beating an SEC team, but next year’s team will likely be drastically different in key places with Greene expected to go off to the NFL and some of the top defensive playmakers gone. And that’s what this game will be about: defense. Don’t expect a shootout.

Even when Iowa was struggling, the defense was a rock allowing more than 20 points just four times all year while never giving up more than 27. In those four games, the Hawkeyes lost three of them with the one win coming against Penn State. South Carolina’s defense went bye-bye in the final two games, but before the problems with Florida and South Carolina it hadn’t allowed more than 24 to anyone. This wasn’t just a case of the Big Ten and SEC offenses being bad; these two defenses really are good.

It’s the first game of the New Year, and while it won’t be a barnburner, it should be a hard-hitting, easy on the stomach, low scoring battle to get you ready for the bigger and better things to come. The Outback is almost always interesting, the last four have been decided late, and even if this only ends up being in the high teens, it should still grow into a compelling early feed the hangover game.
Players to watch: Doak Walker winner Shonn Greene might be Iowa’s signature star, but it could be argued that DT Mitch King is every bit as vital to the team’s success. The unanimous All-Big 10 selection has clogged up everything on the inside all year long. Helped by having running mate Mitch Kroul take the heat off, King has been able to make an impressive 52 stops with four sacks with a combination of strength and quickness that should render the South Carolina running game moot.
With the Gamecock running game all but useless, it’ll be up to the passing game to carry the offense yet again, and that means it’ll be another game, another starting quarterback in what has been a complete and utter mess. Spurrier hasn’t been able to sink or swim with any of his passers, and now, after spinning the wheel, the starter will be … Stephen Garcia. The most talented option, Garcia getting the nod over Chris Smelley is a statement by Spurrier saying it’s time to go with the guy with the biggest upside. Garcia has barely completed half his passes with six touchdowns and five interceptions, but he adds a rushing element that Smelley doesn’t. Expect more running, more pressure heaped on his shoulders, and more mistakes. South Carolina quarterbacks throw picks; that’s what they do.  
The woes of the USC offense have forced the defense to play at a higher level with Eric Norwood the star of the show. The First Team All-SEC selection has been part defensive lineman and part linebacker, turned loose this season with nine sacks and 66 tackles. Too strong for most tight ends and too quick for most tackles, he’s been all over the field this season and has been a wrecking crew at times. He has talent around him so he can’t be keyed on, but he’ll need to be the main focus of the Iowa offense. At the very least, he should make his presence felt against the Hawkeye ground game.
Expect this to be the last time Shonn Greene is in an Iowa uniform. After starting his career in Iowa City, he had to leave to get his grades up to snuff. This off-season, it was hardly a given that he was going to be the starter, much less a star, and no one was close to seeing a 1,729-yard, 17 touchdown season coming. While he finished second in the nation in rushing, he was the only back to gain 100 yards or more in every game with a great combination of breakaway speed and workhorse toughness. Against the Gamecock defense, if he makes it 13-for-13 on the century mark, he’ll have to earn it.

South Carolina will win if... it doesn’t royally screw up. Iowa’s offense has been solid against the mediocre, but South Carolina’s defense, especially with time to heal and time to prepare, is hardly average. However, in what should be a close game, turnover margin should mean everything, and Iowa doesn’t give the ball away, finishing 27th in the nation in turnover margin. South Carolina gave the ball away in a steady stream all season long, but of the 33 turnovers, 16 came in the five losses with eight in the last two games. There will be at least three giveaways, but they can’t be the killer variety. They can’t lead to immediate scores and the defense will have to do its part to clean up the mess if Garcia and company start to blow it.  
Iowa will win if
... it holds South Carolina to under 100 rushing yards. Helped immensely by King and Kroul, Iowa finished tenth in the nation in run defense allowing 98.25 yards per game. Wisconsin was kept to 158 yards, LeSean McCoy was held relatively in check as Pitt ran for just 130 yards, and Penn State had the most success with 180 yards. South Carolina is 5-0 when it runs for 100 yards or more, and 2-5 when it doesn’t, with six of its seven rushing touchdowns coming in the wins.
What will happen: Greene will be kept to under 100 yards for the first time all season long, but the formula should work out well for Iowa. South Carolina can’t run, Garcia, and eventually Smelley, will have to throw, there will be at least three interceptions, and Iowa will capitalize doing just enough to get by in the slugfest. The South Carolina defense will be great, but it won’t be able to pick up the slack.

Line: Iowa -3.5 ... CFN Prediction: Iowa 23 … South Carolina 17      

- 2009 Outback Bowl Player Profiles, Histories, & More