Tampa, December 27, 2018- On the first day of the New 2019 Year at high noon in Raymond James Stadium, the No. 18 Mississippi State Bulldogs (8-4 overall, 4-4 in Southeastern Conference) will battle it out with the Iowa Hawkeyes (8-4 overall, 5-4 in Big Ten Conference) in what is this particular Bowls’ 33rd year residing in Tampa. The matchup will broadcast on ESPN2 for your visual pleasure and on the school’s respected Radio Networks, but today we’re going to dive deeper into only one of the contenders, the Iowa Hawkeyes.
Fans have spoken (6,327 to be exact): Outback Bowl’s Twitter page conducted a fan-vote poll comparing the two teams. Team Coconut Shrimp Aka Iowa Hawkeyes, racked up 51% of votes, overpowering Team Bloomin’ Onion Aka Mississippi State’s 49%. We’ll see how those results fluctuate come game-day!
Hawkeye Bred: Iowa Alumni and San Francisco 49er’s All-Pro tight end George Kittle was nominated for his first Pro Bowl- he shattered San Fran’s franchise record this season for most receiving yards by a tight end in a single season, posting well over 1,000 yards thus far (1,228). Kittle was the 2nd pick of the 5th round in the 2017 NFL draft.
Another former Hawkeye, Baltimore Raven’s six-time All-Pro offensive guard, Marshal Yanda makes his 7th Pro Bowl appearance (holds longest active streak amongst guards at the time with six straight selections, 2011-2016). Apart of the 2007 NFL Draft, Yanda was the 86th overall pick in the 3rd round and has a 2012 Super Bowl XLVII Ring to show for in his scroll of achievements.
Award-winning program: The College Football Awards recognized the Hawkeyes’ Kinnick Wave as the best tradition. The renowned ‘Iowa wave’ is in its second year of establishment and everyone in Kinnick Stadium participates in waving in the direction of the patients and families inside the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital building (that looks down at the field) who share an appreciative wave back. “10 seasons, 134 children, and a lifetime of memories make up the Kid Captain program.” via University of Iowa Twitter. Certainly a heart-warming tradition that, not thinking twice, anyone would support.
IowaEdge: Tight end Noah Fant (3rd team AP Top 25), tight end T.J. Hockenson (2nd team, also named top TE in country and in Big 10), defensive back Amani Hooker (2nd team) all earned the 2018 AP Top 25 All- American honors, along with defensive end and accounting specialist, Anthony Nelson receiving Academic All-America honors for the second consecutive season. Among other honors they were named for this year, the players of this polished program have accumulated 24 national post-season awards in the last five seasons, but a total of 14 seniors (recorded 23 conference wins over last 4 seasons) will be graduating from the team after this season. per Hawkeye football twitter.
Lockdown D: Iowa’s defense has yet again held down the fort impressively this year, as they are 1 of 9 programs sweeping the nation to finish in the Top 25 scoring defenses for three sequential seasons- ranking first among their respected conference in that category at 17.4. They have also held five opponents below the 250 total yard mark, tying for third-most in FBS, following Clemson (held 7 opponents under 250) and Michigan (held 6 opponents). They also hold the second rank in the Big 10 in rushing defense at 102.8 and total defense at 289.6. The Hawkeyes total defense and rush defense is listed at 7th place in the nation.
Iowa looks to snap its unlucky streak and even out their overall ratio, as the Hawkeyes have lost 5 of its last 6 Bowl games.
Vaughan Sixbury, BCP Contributor