Will Kirk Ferentz and Iowa get their first bowl victory since 2010, or will Boston College stay red-hot?
With the conference championship games now in the books, bowl season is now upon us, one of the most exciting parts of college football. We here at SQ will break down some of the more marquee matchups that this bowl season has in store. This includes the New Era Pinstripe Bowl, where the Iowa Hawkeyes (7-5) will square off with the Boston College Eagles (7-5) for the first time. Let’s take a closer look at this matchup, which will air on December 27th at 4:15 CT on ESPN.
Storylines Heading Into The Game
Decorated Hawkeye seniors playing in their final game - The Iowa Hawkeyes senior class has had quite the career, going 34-18 over the course of the past four seasons. That also includes an undefeated regular season in 2015, where Iowa fell one game short of reaching the College Football Playoff. Impact players like Akrum Wadley, Josey Jewell, Matt Vandeberg, Bo Bower, Ben Niemann, and several others will be sorely missed next year. The New Era Pinstripe Bowl will close out these seniors’ careers in an Iowa uniform and will be their last chance at a bowl victory.
Boston College looks to stay red-hot - After a 2-4 rocky start, the Eagles got hot during the second half of the regular season, winning five of their last six games to become bowl eligible for the second consecutive season. The lone loss during the stretch was by a narrow 17-14 margin against 23rd ranked North Carolina State, proving that the Eagles can compete with quality football teams. Steve Addazio and the Eagles will try to ride this momentum into the bowl game.
Hawkeyes try to snap a five-game bowl losing skid - Iowa can’t seem to shake their recent bowl struggles, as they’ve lost five consecutive bowl games by an average of 19.4 points in those losses. It seems as if Kirk Ferentz and the Hawkeyes have treated the bowl games as vacations in the past few years instead of business trips. They’ll look to buck the trend this year and get their first bowl win since the 2010 Insight Bowl.
12 - The Eagles are giving up just 12 points per game over their past five games, helping Boston College go 4-1 over that stretch. What’s been the key for the Eagles’ defense? The answer is turnovers. Boston College has forced a whopping 14 turnovers during this five-game stretch, while only giving up the ball four times. On the other side, Iowa has turned the ball over 12 times in their past five bowl games and are averaging just 15 points per game. If these trends continue, it could spell disaster for Iowa and lift Boston College to back-to-back seasons with a bowl victory.
27.58 - Boston College has been extremely disciplined all season, averaging a nation-low 27.58 penalty yards per game. Expect the Eagles to hold the edge in this department, as Iowa is averaging 42.83 penalty yards per game. If this game comes down to the wire, penalties will be a key factor that will likely favor Boston College.
0 - Iowa has 0 losses this year when star running back Akrum Wadley reaches 100 yards on the ground, going 5-0 in those games. However, when Wadley fails to reach the 100-yard mark, Iowa is just 2-5. Wadley should have his way with a porous Boston College run defense, as they are surrendering 198.4 rushing yards per game and 4.99 yards per carry. Taking this into account, and it being Wadley’s last game in black and gold, expect Brian Ferentz to give him plenty of touches throughout the afternoon.
BTN (@IowaOnBTN) November 27, 2017
At times this year Iowa has struggled to run the ball effectively with injuries to the offensive line vaulting two freshman into the starting lineup. When Iowa can’t get the ground game going, as seen in the Wisconsin game, this forces Iowa to attack through the air. This is not Iowa’s true identity, especially with a sophomore quarterback who is still inexperienced. Getting Wadley rolling early in the game is key for the Iowa offense, as an effective rushing attack will allow Ferentz to utilize play-action and stay unpredictable.
Josey Jewell, Linebacker, Iowa - Jewell is a fan favorite in Iowa City, and not without reason. “The Outlaw” is known for his nose for the football and bone-crushing hits, and has been the heart and soul of the Hawkeye defense for the past four years. This year, Jewell has the most tackles in the Big Ten (123) despite missing the Northwestern game. His efforts this year have earned him several awards and honors, including the Nagurski-Woodson Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year award, 2017 Jack Lambert award recipient, and a spot on the Walter Camp All-America First Team.
BTN (@IowaOnBTN) November 28, 2017
Jewell will be tasked with trying to stop freshman phenom AJ Dillon, who has rushed for at least 149 yards and a touchdown in his last four games. Don’t expect Jewell to shy away from the challenge, as the veteran has faced premier running backs including David Montgomery, Saquon Barkley, and Jonathan Taylor already this season.
Darius Wade, Quarterback, Boston College - Wade was thrust into the starting role when freshman quarterback Anthony Brown went down with a right leg injury in the loss to North Carolina State. Despite being a senior, Wade has seen limited playing time throughout his four years at Boston College. Prior to this year, Wade had just 69 attempts over the course of three years. Since taking over the starting role, Wade hasn’t been asked to do much, attempting just 35 passes. He completed under 50% of his passes for just 55 yards against Connecticut, but appeared to improve in the season finale against Syracuse. In that contest, Wade completed 80% of his passes for 248 yards and a touchdown.
The key for Wade and the Eagles is to utilize Dillon and the ground game, as they have all year long. Dillon, who was recently named ACC Rookie of the Year, has been excellent down the final stretch of the season, as the Eagles should continue to ride him. If Iowa sells out and commits to stopping the ground game, Wade will be forced to make plays with his arm. Is the inexperienced signal caller up to the task?
Why Iowa Wins
Combine the Eagles’ awful run defense with a stud like Akrum Wadley in the Iowa backfield, and you get the perfect storm for the Iowa offense. Ferentz has shown all year that he is committed to the ground game, and he’ll probably stick to that recipe against one of the worst run defenses in the nation. On the other side of the ball, Iowa will need to limit running back AJ Dillon, who has been terrorizing defenses in his last four games. If the Hawkeyes’ front seven can slow him down, Wade will prove why he was the backup all season long and Iowa will finish 8-5 for the second straight season.
Why Boston College Wins
Boston College enters this game with more momentum than the Hawkeyes, which could show early in this game. During their hot stretch, the Eagles have done a superb job of creating turnovers and pounding the rock on the ground on the offensive side. If the Eagles are going to win, Dillon will need another successful day on the ground and the defense will have to generate turnovers.
Although Iowa opened as a three-point favorite, their persistent issues that have plagued them all year will continue into the bowl game. First, Iowa has struggled mightily on the road. They’ve won just one game outside of the state of Iowa this year, which was the regular season finale against four-win Nebraska. Also, Nate Stanley has flashed signs of promise but has yet to play consistently at a high level. With this being Stanley’s first year in the starting role, struggles were definitely expected while he learns and matures as a quarterback.
Dillon will feast against an Iowa defense that has given up at least 100 rushing yards in eight of their 12 games. Remember the three premier running backs I mentioned when discussing Josey Jewell? Iowa gave up an average of 160 rushing yards to those three backs, and Dillon belongs in that same category. Defensively, the Eagles will continue to generate turnovers that has fueled their recent success and will ultimately give them the edge in a tough, physical ballgame.
Boston College 27, Iowa 20
*All stats courtesy of espn.com, sports-reference.com and stats.ncaa.org
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