Georgia Tech and Iowa are set for the Orange Bowl tonight and whether the Hawks can stop the Yellow Jackets' option is the story I've seen surface in most discussion of this game. Understandably so, given that it's what Tech's going to run all night. But I think a much bigger story will be whether Iowa quarterback Ricky Stanzi can avoid the kind of mistakes that plagued him all year long, even if he did live a charmed life and find a way to escape them.
Even though Georgia Tech is the team more committed to the run, they are also the more explosive of the two offenses. Josh Nesbitt running the option and finding Jonathan Dwyer on the perimiter can make a lot of big plays and Tech has won high-scoring games this year, including their 39-34 win over Clemson in the ACC championship game. The Jackets will get their points, even if Iowa does slow them down,
and it will be incumbent on Stanzi to be able to avoid handing them any more. There is opportunity for the Hawkeye offense tonight. Georgia Tech has not played great defense this year, as the points Clemson scored demonstrate. But Clemson had a singularly explosive talent in C.J. Spiller, who had a huge night. I don't see that Iowa has a similar type of difference-maker, even if Stanzi is efficient and avoids mistakes. Iowa could be in for a lot of decent drives that bog down for lack of big plays. On the positive side for the Hawkeyes, they can note I said more or less the same thing about Ohio State before the Rose Bowl--that the opposing defense had weaknesses, but the Big Ten team wouldn't be able to exploit them. I was clearly wrong about the Buckeyes and we'll know by the end of tonight if I made it 2-for-2 on the Hawks.
This is going to be a fun game to watch. I respect both coaches a lot. Both Kirk Ferentz at Iowa, and old Navy man Paul
Johnson at Georgia Tech have disciplined teams. And both have to carry the banner for their conferences. For the Big Ten this is Game 7, after they've split the first six bowl games. For Tech it's a chance to complete an ACC comeback. After a bad start, the conference got wins from Virginia Tech and Florida State and a win here in their home bowl would complete the move back to respectability. I think they get it. Nesbitt and Dwyer get the ball to the outside often enough to produce points and I don't think Stanzi can't make it through the night without shooting himself in the foot at least a couple times. He threw five picks against Indiana and has been mistake-prone against lesser defenses than this. It's enough to help Tech make enough big plays in the second half to get a win in the 31-21 range.