We finally include a Big Ten team in our previews with the upcoming…
The Insight Bowl was formed in 1989 and was originally named the Copper Bowl. It stayed that way until 1996 when Insight Enterprises purchased the rights and named it the Insight.com Bowl, which then shifted to simply the Insight Bowl in 2002.
The game originally featured a WAC team matched up against an at-large. That lasted until 1997 when the Big 12 and Big East began a series. The Big 12 was replaced with the Pac 10 in 2002. In 2006, the final shift occured when the Big 12 returned to the game to face the Big Ten.
Since the inclusion of the Big Ten in this game, Minnesota has attended 3 times (of the 4 games played). The Big Ten has never won this bowl game as a tie in member. The last Big Ten team to win this game was in 1996 when Wisconsin defeated Utah 38-10. All told, the Big Ten is 2-4 in this game.
The biggest comeback in Division 1 Bowl history occured in 2006. Minnesota held a 38-7 3rd quarter lead against Texas Tech. Tech came back to upset the Gophers 44-41 in overtime. That game saw the Red Raiders score 24 unanswered points in the 4th quarter. It seems that Minnesota can’t help but let teams have big comebacks against them.
The Missouri Tigers were two games away from going undefeated this season and having a legitimate argument for claiming a spot in the Mythical National Championship. After beating (almost certainly overrated) #1 Oklahoma 36-27, in a game that probably wasn’t even that close, the Tigers began a two game road tilt. Their first stop resulted in a loss to the then #14 Cornhuskers 31-17. The second game, against Texas Tech, ended with a 24-17 loss. While these were their only two losses on the season, they killed an otherwise promising season. A 10-2 Missouri team has to be thinking that an Insight Bowl invite is beneath them. I can’t say I disagree.
The Tiger’s field general is 2nd year starter Blaine Gabbert (6-5, 235). Gabbert, a Junior, is not the best quarterback in the league – not by a long shot – but he does enough to get the job done for his team. His 126 passer rating isn’t pretty to look at, but a 62.2% completion percentage is nothing to scoff at. He’s also picked up 2752 yards and 15 touchdowns to only 7 interceptions. Again, he’s not world beating, but he is good enough to help his team. Unfortunately, in the two losses this season, his passing rating was 85.75 and 66.60 respectively – so he can cost his team if his play doesn’t live up to par.
Missouri is not a primary rushing team. Their two top running backs, Junior De’Vion Moore and Freshman Henry Josey (5-10, 180), have combined for 167 attempts for 915 yards on the season. Clearly these guys are not Missouri’s top offensive options, but at just over 5 yards per carry each, they are effective when used. Gabbert also gets a number of carries every game, in fact he’s carried the ball more often than any other player on the team with 99 attempts, but he only has 239 yards to show for it this year.
Missouri has effectively used 4 receivers thus far this season, though Gabbert clearly has two favorites. Sophomore T.J. Moe has picked up an impressive 11.6 yards per catch average on 77 receptions for 6 touchdowns on the season. He isn’t thrown to the most, but he makes good with what he gets. Junior Michael Egnew has only picked up 6 more receptions on the year, but has 698 yards and 4 touchdowns for his effort. Both of these guys are dangerous threats that have to be accounted for at all times.
Most importantly, this team is surprisingly young. None of the top players I’ve mentioned are seniors, and the juniors are not impressive enough to worry about them jumping to the NFL. Keep your eyes on Missouri next year, they have a good chance to be very dangerous.
The Hawkeyes are in trouble. Deep trouble. After starting the season with Big Ten Championship aspirations, Iowa suffered a more-than-disappointing 7-5 season and were simply thankful to be playing a bowl and having an opportunity to get a win going into next season.
Iowa’s top receiver, Derrell Johnson-Koulianos was busted for drug possession, leading to his dismissal from the team. Following him, Adam Robinson – Iowa’s leading rusher – was suspended, and another running back, Jewel Hampton, transferred out. These moves basically eviscerate Iowa’s skill positions in a way that the Tiger’s faithful could have only dreamed of.
And all of this after a 27-24 loss to Minnesota to cap off a roller-coaster ride of a season, and to cap off a 3 game losing streak to Northwestern (21-17), Ohio State (20-17) and the Golden Gophers. Iowa also suffered losses at Arizona (34-27) and to Wisconsin (31-30). That doesn’t mean the Hawk’s didn’t find some success, managing to kill Michigan State 37-6 after going up 30-0 in the first half.
Senior quarterback, and All-American hero, Ricky Stanzi (6-4, 230) will still be playing, and overall had a great season this year. With 324 pass attempts, Stanzi accumulated 210 completions, 2804 yards and 25 touchdowns with a career low 4 interceptions (for seasons that he completed a pass to his own team). The interception numbers are particularly surprising, with Stanzi having thrown 15 in the previous year. He was able to avoid throwing more than one in any single game, and his worst game (Northwestern) still had a 122.63 quarterback rating.
However, Stanzi is going to need some serious help. His friend in the backfield is freshman runningback Marcus Coker (6-0, 230). Coker is clearly a bruiser with a bright future ahead of him, but he only carried 20% of the total runs all season. His 81 carries netted him a respectable 403 yards and 1 touchdown (against the Buckeyes). He was only able to see action in 6 games this season, but it’s certainly better than nothing. Coker will have to grow up quick in order to fill Robinson’s shoes.
In the passing game, Iowa will still look to junior Marvin McNutt (6-4, 215) to haul in the catches. McNutt is the second half of the dangerous Iowa receiving duo that includes Johnson-Koulianos. On 51 receptions this year, Marvin has gained a team leading 798 yards to go along with his 8 touchdowns. The Hawkeyes will have to find some additional help in the receiving game, but with some time to make adjustments they shouldn’t have too much trouble grooming someone to at least be a pair of hands out in the secondary.
I’d like to point out that many of these picks were made prior to the recent Iowa disaster. Jeff did switch his pick after the fact but as of this writing none of the others have.
Even with Iowa missing a number of players, this game should be particularly interesting. We haven’t had a lot of data comparing Big Ten teams to Big 12 teams (Missouri/Illinois comes to mind). It’s very likely that Iowa could come out angry about everything that’s happened this season and pound Missouri flat. It’s also more than likely that Missouri will pound Iowa for having a reduced set of experienced skill players. We’re only going to know when the game happens tonight.
Given that Iowa’s defense was unaffected – even if it’s not been up to Iowa’s standards this season – I doubt we’re going to see a pounding either way. This will probably turn into a tough, grind-it-out football game that will benefit the team that executes the best. Missouri’s more experienced skill players will give them the advantage here – though it will be small overall.