Bring Down the House: Rose Bowl Preview

House previews the Rose Bowl, and discusses the week in sports.

Jonathan House, Sports Editor

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What a week it will be. I also feel honored to be writing this, as this will very likely be the last post on our website in 2015, but I look forward to bringing you more content in 2016. In addition to ringing in a New Year on Friday, and the second straight week without classes for students, it also will be (and already has been in some respects) a big week in sports. The bowl season is now in full swing, and with that means we are only a day away from the Rose Bowl, and the College Football Playoff Semifinals are here. On Tuesday night, all eyes in the college basketball world were on Carver Hawkeye Arena as the Hawkeyes knocked off top-ranked and previously unbeaten Michigan St. (Revenge for their loss to Sparty in the Big Ten Championship game earlier this month.) It was Iowa’s first win over a #1 team since 1999 over Connecticut. However, later in the week, Iowans will shift their focus to Pasadena, CA for Iowa’s first Rose Bowl appearance in 25 years. What does Iowa need to do to win, keeping in mind that Hayden Fry never won a Rose Bowl, and that this is Kirk’s first Rose Bowl appearance?

  1. Limit Christian McCaffrey’s yards. This one is pretty much a no-brainer. McCaffrey was the Heisman runner-up, and is probably the most talented player that an Iowa defense has had to face in quite some time. He leads Stanford in rushing with 1,847 yards, which is an average of 142 yards per game. He also is Stanford’s leading receiver. He broke Barry Sanders’ record for all-purpose yards in a single season. McCaffrey has even thrown two touchdowns this year. He truly can do pretty much everything. When Iowa faced another talented running back this year, its defense struggled. Indiana running back Jordan Howard had 174 yards and two touchdowns. Some reassurance: Iowa is 11th in the country in rush defense. However, McCaffrey presents a challenge that Iowa hasn’t seen before.
  2. Beathard’s ability to manage the game. We’ve seen it before, but C.J. Beathard must be able to manage the game, and limit his mistakes. We’ve seen it many times before with his ability to make reads and adjustments at the line of scrimmage. He needs to make smart decisions at the line, limit mistakes, and find his tight ends on some key plays. We saw this all season, as Beathard has been an excellent game manager, and has made very few mistakes. However, this will be the biggest stage he’s ever played on, probably even bigger than the Big Ten Championship game. How will he respond?
  3. Speaking of Beathard, I expect Iowa to take a few shots deep. How will Stanford respond? Stanford’s pass defense is mediocre, but then again, so is Iowa’s. Stanford gives up 227.6 yards per game through the air, which is 71st in the country. I expect Iowa will take a shot (or two) down the field (likely to Tevaun Smith) as the Hawkeyes did in the Big Ten Championship game. The conditions should allow for it. If Beathard can find a few receivers deep down the field, it will help open up the run game, and will help Iowa score. Stanford needs to be prepared to stop it.
  4. I’ve said it before, but not necessarily in writing, but I’ve also heard it before. Bowl games often come down to which team is better prepared, and which team is motivated to be there. Iowa certainly didn’t seem to be motivated in the TaxSlayer Bowl in January. Although many Iowa fans would rather see Iowa in the playoff semifinals, the Rose Bowl is a huge game, and Iowa hasn’t been there in 25 years. Stanford was in the Rose Bowl just two years ago, when it lost to Michigan State. Does Stanford really want to be there? Probably to some extent, but the Cardinal certainly doesn’t have as much motivation as Iowa.  Iowa also is expected to draw a huge crowd, just as the Hawkeyes did in Indianapolis. This has to play into Iowa’s favor.

 

Prediction: Iowa 27, Stanford 23

 

Predictions for the Playoffs:

Alabama 28, Michigan State 17

Oklahoma 35, Clemson 31

Alabama 34, Oklahoma 31