This years Outback Bowl is a popular one in the Midwest due to the overdog status enjoyed by the mouth-smashing Iowa Hawkeyes and the Big 10's Offensive Player of the Year, RB Shonn Greene. This former furniture mover has used his shifty 230 lb frame and an earth-moving O Line to become the #1 running back in the nation. Greene may be the best player in the bowl, but he isn't the only key to a successful Iowa gameplan. Enjoy The Rivalry's look at these other key elements of the 2008 Outback Bowl.
Outback Bowl Preview: Iowa v South Carolina
Christmas Theme Song: "We Three Kings of Orient Are"
This classic hymn implores an actual and metaphorical star to guide the weary travelers to their destination. Iowa would do just fine by calling on their own stars to defeat the underwhelming South Carolina Gamecocks. Kirk Ferentz's defense is led by its emotional and physical leader, Mitch King, a senior DT who dominated Penn State and was voted Big 10 Defensive Player of the Year by the coaches. Having a leader like King can probably explain why Iowa boasts the 8th best scoring defense in America and the 13th best rushing defense.
Some Paint for Iowa and the Wisemen.
While the Three Kings offered valuable gifts when they visited Bethlehem, it seems to many Big 10 fans that South Carolina comes to the Outback offering nothing but some wasted potential and a famous coach. Coach Spurriers best unit is his linebacking corps, led by NFL prospects Eric Norwood and Jasper Brinkley. These talented all-SEC performers will stack the box to force Iowa to throw the ball (just like everyone else did in the Big 10). On the offensive side of the ball, USC brings an inconsistent quarterback combination of Chris Smelley and Stephen Garcia. The latter will start against Iowa and attempt to coax some big plays out of an offense that struggled against every top notch defense they faced (with the exception of a 30 point "explosion" against Miss). Smelley and Garcia have combined to lead the SEC in interceptions (24), including 4 in the lopsided regular season loss to Clemson.
Want to talk about people who followed through under pressure and lived to their full potential? How about those three kings memorized in the carol? They busted their butts to get to Bethlehem and then refused to sell out Jesus's location to Herod. The "panache under pressure" shown by the wisemen has been lacking for Spurrier's Gamecocks, losers of four out of five games against FBS opponents with winning records. While Spurrier was known as a big game coach at Florida, boasting 1 national title and victories over Tennessee and superpower Florida State, his USC teams have been unable to secure a high profile, program altering win during his four year tenure.
It seems the stars of the Midwest should shine in the Outback Bowl, but one question remains: Is a powerful and above average Big 10 team better than a non, descript mediocre SEC team?