on January 1, 2009 by in Uncategorized, Comments (0)

South Carolina vs. Iowa: Who has the edge?

A position-by-position breakdown of the Outback Bowl

Quarterback

Iowa quarterback Ricky Stanzi isn’t flashy, but it’s hard to argue with his results this season. The sophomore has helped the Hawkeyes win five of their six games of the regular season, including an upset of No. 3 Penn State early last month. On the year, he has totaled 1,809 yards and 13 touchdowns through the air against only seven interceptions. South Carolina will start freshman Stephen Garcia after the long-anticipated benching of Chris Smelley. In limited action, Garcia has 753 yards and six touchdowns on the year and is also a threat to run.

Advantage: Iowa

Running back

Iowa likely has the top tailback in the nation with first-team All-American Shonn Greene, who has had little trouble shredding opposing defenses this season. The Big 10 Player of the Year and Doak Walker Award winner has yet to be held under 100 yards in a single game this season, as Greene has 1,729 yards and 17 touchdowns on the year, helping Iowa rank 29th in the nation in rushing. Meanwhile, the Gamecocks’ rushing attack ranks 109th nationally, averaging 98.3 yards per game. Mike Davis has had a discouraging senior season for South Carolina, as he leads the Gamecocks with 571 yards at 3.6 yards per carry.

Advantage: Iowa

Wide receiver

South Carolina wideout Kenny McKinley hasn’t had the senior year that many had envisioned, although injuries have played a hand. Still, the senior is big-time threat for the Gamecocks, as the school’s all-time leading receiver has 48 catches for 556 yards this season. Also keep an eye out for South Carolina first-team All-SEC tight end Jared Cook, who will look to bounce back after catching one pass in both the Florida and Clemson games to end the season. Derrell Johnson-Koulianos leads the Hawkeyes with 621 yards receiving yards this season.

Advantage: South Carolina

Offensive line

Paving the way for Greene’s monster season has been the Hawkeyes’ offensive line, which has been much honored since the end of the season. Seth Olsen earned All-Big 10 first team honors, while center Rob Bruggeman and tackle Bryan Bulaga were honored with second-team all-conference nods. Iowa tight end Brandon Myers was a first-team All-Big 10 selection and is an excellent blocker. The Gamecocks have been nothing short of woeful up front, having given up nearly 30 sacks and have also struggled with run blocking.

Advantage: Iowa

Run defense

Second team All-American Mitch King anchors the Iowa defensive line, helping the Hawkeyes rank 10th in the country in rushing defense. The senior tackle, who was also named the Big 10 Defensive Lineman of the Year, has 52 tackles on the year, including 15.5 for loss to lead the team. He now has 55 career tackles for loss, which ranks second among active FBS players. The Gamecocks had a hard time stopping Clemson from running the ball in their last outing, but they still ranked a respectable 36th in the nation against the run. First-team All-SEC linebacker Eric Norwood leads the SEC with nine sacks and also has 13.5 tackles for loss for South Carolina.

Advantage: Iowa

Pass defense

South Carolina will be down a man in the Outback Bowl with safety Emmanuel Cook’s career most likely over in Columbia, but the Gamecocks still have one of the top pass defenses in the nation. The Gamecocks ranked third in the nation against the pass this season, and have intercepted 12 passes while only allowing only eight touchdowns through the air. Stoney Woodson leads South Carolina with four interceptions on the season, while Carlos Thomas has three.

Advantage: South Carolina

Special teams

Both squads are fairly solid on special teams, as there are very few statistical differences between the two. There’s only one noticeable difference, at placekicker, as the Hawkeyes will more than likely use both Trent Mossbrucker and Daniel Murray. Mossbrucker is the more accurate of the two, but doesn’t have the power of Murray. South Carolina feels good with Ryan Succop handling the placekicking duties by himself, and the Gamecocks have two big-threat returners in Chris Culliver and Captain Munnerlyn.

Advantage: South Carolina

Bottom line: The Gamecocks could badly use a win in this game to help build some momentum for the offseason, particularly after embarrassing losses to Florida and Clemson to close the regular season. Clearly, that is easier said than done, however, and stopping Greene and finding some offensive rhythm will be the keys.

— Eric Sprott