Insight Bowl Game Preview: Iowa vs. Oklahoma

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Last year, Iowa finished the regular season in disappointing fashion before defeating Big 12 opponent #14 Missouri 27-24 in Tempe.  This year the Hawkeyes finished the regular season losing three of their five last games, including a 20-7 defeat in the season finale against new rival Nebraska and will take on another top 25 ranked Big 12 opponent in the Insight Bowl.

Head coach Kirk Ferentz would like the same result but will have to try to get it without the star of last year’s bowl game, Marcus Coker who rushed for 219 yards and two touchdowns. This season, Coker was the Big Ten’s second leader rusher with 1384 yards and 15 TDs but was suspended him for the game on December 20th for undisclosed disciplinary reasons. The loss of Coker will leave a gaping hole in the Hawkeye ground attack as no other Iowa back rushed for more than 80 yards in this campaign. This could be a break for Oklahoma which has given up at least 120 rushing yards to its last seven opponents, including 278 to Oklahoma State in the Bedlam game.

QB James Vandenberg has 2806 yards, 23 TDs and just six picks on the year and has one of the best receiving weapons in the Big Ten to throw to. Marvin McNutt set school records and led the conference with 1,269 receiving yards and 12 touchdown catches. Sophomore LBs James Morris and Christian Kirksley both have tallied over a 100 total tackles in 2011 with Morris tied at 57th in the FBS with 104 and Kirksley tied at 59th with 103. Iowa has allowed an average of 387.6 yards per game of total offense and 23.3 points per game.

Oklahoma began the season ranked #1 in the polls and backed up the preseason ranking by starting the season 6-0. The season and 39-game home winning streak ended on October 22nd when the Sooners were upset 41-38 by heavy underdog Texas Tech. Oklahoma won their next two games, but found themselves with another loss in week 12 to Baylor. With the Sooner’s national championship hopes dashed, they still could have claimed a share of the conference title and the Big 12′s BCS berth in the final game of the regular season.

In the Bedlam game, OU fell behind Oklahoma State 24-0 and were kept out of the end zone until the final minutes of the contest ultimately losing 44-10 to the Cowboys. Junior QB Landry Jones was an early Heisman hopeful, but ended the season tied for the Big 12 lead with 14 interceptions. Jones threw for 4302 yards and 28 TDs as they had to rely heavily on their passing game when leading rusher Dominique Whaley was lost for the season after six games with a broken ankle. Three weeks later, Jones lost the NCAA’s all-time reception leader Ryan Broyles (349) to a torn ACL. In the three games played without Broyles, Jones did not have a passing touchdown and threw five picks. Three more injuries will leave Bob Stoops’ squad even more depleted on offense as WR Jaz Reynolds (kidney), RB Brandon Williams (neck) and FB Aaron Ripkowski (back) will miss the game. RBs Roy Finch and Brennan Clay should both expect to see ample game time against the Hawkeyes.

The Sooners’ have struggled on defense, allowing averages of 29.7 points and 449.2 total yards during the 3-3 finish, though Frank Alexander took Big 12 defensive player of the year honors after tying for the conference lead with 8.5 sacks and registering 18 tackles for loss, a Big 12 best for 2011.

Dory LeBlanc, covers Gator sports for Gators First and Not just a college sports enthusiast, Dory is also a fan of NFL, NHL, NBA, and MLB. Born outside Philly, she moved to Tampa, and now resides in Illinois, giving her a broad perspective on the sporting world. You can follow Dory on twitter @DoryLeBlanc