Match-up: Stanford (Pac 12) vs. Iowa (Big Ten)
Spread: Stanford (-6.5)
Location: Rose Bowl. Pasadena, CA
When: Friday, January 1st, 5:00 PM
Where to Watch: ESPN
Stanford started off their season losing at Northwestern when they were ranked inside the top 1o in just about all of the preseason polls. Not many people were believers in the Cardinal after losing their season opener, but ever since, this team played with a chip on their shoulder the remainder of the season. Their second loss came at home in the latter part of the season to a red hot Oregon team. But despite that loss, the Cardinal still remained very much in the conference championship and college football playoff picture due to their rigorous schedule with quality of opponents. The story of this Stanford football team this year was not their defense, as it usually is just about every year. Instead, it was about running back/do everything player Christian McCaffery. Let’s just say McCaffery had a phenomenal season to say the least, in which he led the country in all purpose yards by over 1,00o total yards. Are you serious? You’ve to be kidding me. No disrespect to Heisman winner Derrick Henry, but McCaffery was absolutely robbed of the award. Robbed. He’s more valuable to his team than anyone else in college football, and it isn’t even close. Quarterback Kevin Hogan came on strong as the season winded down, finishing with a 170.1 passer rating, good for second in the Pac 12 behind Vernon Adams Jr. of Oregon. Unlike years past, this Stanford offense is far from vanilla, as they can do so many different things in which they pick up chunks of yards. Yes, it mostly involves McCaffrey in some way, shape, or form.
Players to Watch
Christian McCaffrey (RB): Do I need to say anymore? This dude led the country in total yards and the next closest was 1,000 yards behind him. McCaffrey can do everything on a football field, such as return kicks, punts, catch balls out of the backfield and in the slot, and of course, wreak havoc in the backfield on the ground. In my opinion, this guy is the best player in college football, and he’s always going to have an impact on the field.
Kevin Hogan (QB): The one game that McCaffrey was actually slowed down to a certain extent was the regular season finale vs. Notre Dame. The Irish held McCaffrey to just 93 yards on the ground, but Hogan picked up the slack by tossing for 269 yards and 4 touchdowns. So when there’s a slight chance that Stanford can’t get McCaffrey going, that just means there’s more leeway for Hogan to make plays through the air and beat teams that way. Yes, this Stanford offense is very dynamic, and Hogan’s been the rock for this offense for the past 4 years.
How Stanford Can Win
The balance between allowing Hogan to take shots down the field and feeding McCaffrey. It’s really that simple. Iowa’s offense is nothing special, so despite Stanford’s woes on defense, they will hang around. But the Cardinal can really bust this game wide open if they can get the ball to McCaffrey in open space and let him operate, along with allowing Hogan to take shots down the field to his big targets that are matchup problems.
A remarkable season for the Hawkeyes to say the least. Coming off a 7-6 season, fans closest to this program weren’t entirely sure which direction they were headed. After tweaking some things in the offseason in terms of personnel and schemes, Kirk Ferentz certainly made his case as one of the top coaches in 2015 for his job with this team. Iowa is nothing flashy, but they do what football teams need to do in order to win football games. Run the ball effectively, take care of the football, and play excellent defense. Pretty good recipe to win games, and that showed with their best season in program history. The Hawkeyes went unbeaten in the regular season and with a win over Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship Game, they would be the ones playing Alabama in the College Football Playoff Semifinal game. Instead, after a tough loss, the Hawkeyes have to settle for a nice consultation prize in a trip to Pasadena for the Rose Bowl. Awesome season for Iowa, regardless of the outcome of this game.
Players to Watch
C.J. Beathard (QB): The running game is the focal point in this offense, but where would Iowa be without C.J. Beathard? The answer is: Not here playing in the Rose Bowl. His first year starting for the Hawkeyes, Beathard threw for north of 2,500 yards and 15 touchdowns to just 4 interceptions. He takes care of the football, is smart, and has an excellent football IQ. The reason Iowa was one of the leaders in the nation in taking care of the football was because of Beathard. He will give the Hawkeyes a great chance in this game if he continues to keep playing the way he has all year.
Desmond King (CB): King is an absolute ball hawk in the secondary, and he can shutdown just about any opposing star wide receiver that’s out there. He’s one of, if not the best cover corners in the country. He’s had an impact on every game this season for Iowa and this game will be no different.
How Iowa Can Win
Contain McCaffrey. Contain McCaffrey. Contain McCaffrey. If Iowa can model the way Notre Dame played Stanford, they will win this Rose Bowl Game. Yes, they certainly can’t allow Hogan to go bonkers like the Irish did, but the Hawkeyes have a much better pass defense and secondary than the Irish. Slowing down McCaffrey and limiting Stanford’s explosive plays offensively is the ticket for Iowa to win this game. Their offense will be able to score more than usual against a so-so Stanford defense, so their defense will have to once again, rise to the occasion.
Final Score Prediction: Stanford wins 24-20.
Photo Credits: http://www.rantsports.com/ncaa-football/2015/10/27/christian-mccaffrey-should-win-the-heisman-if-stanford-makes-the-playoff/