No. 15 Iowa faces Missouri, seeks fourth straight bowl win
The No. 15 Iowa Hawkeyes will seek their fourth consecutive bowl victory when they face the Missouri Tigers in the Music City Bowl on Wednesday, Dec. 30 in Nashville.
The Hawkeyes (6-2) should carry momentum into this game after winning the last six games of their Big Ten season.
"The camaraderie's been great," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. "The support of each other has been great. I think all of us feel extremely fortunate we've been able to get eight games. We're not taking one day for granted moving forward."
The depleted Tigers (5-5) closed their Southeastern Conference season with lopsided losses to Georgia (49-14) at home and Mississippi State (51-32) on the road.
"We want to continue to fight and earn respect. We want to continue to put a good product on the field," Missouri coach Eliah Drinkwitz said. "We're going to have some adversity in this game, but it's an opportunity for us to compete."
Offensive tackle Larry Borom and middle linebacker Nick Bolton have opted out of the game for the Tigers to prepare for the NFL Draft. Those are just the latest setbacks for Missouri in a season marked by injuries, COVID-19 casualties, and opt-outs.
Missouri has been especially hard hit by losses in the trenches, which makes them vulnerable against the Hawkeyes.
"One of the Big Ten coaches that I know that I've tried to get a hold of said it was the best defensive front they played all year," Drinkwitz said. "I know that they're very fundamentally sound. Coach Ferentz is going to be committed to running the football, stopping the run and playing good defense, solid special teams."
Missouri allowed 148 points in their past three games while the Hawkeyes have allowed just 128 points all year.
Iowa held Wisconsin to 56 yards rushing and 225 total yards during their 28-7 victory over Wisconsin. Conversely, the Tigers defense allowed 1,061 yards in their last two losses.
The Tigers are led offensively by running back Larry Rountree III (972 yards, 14 touchdowns rushing) and quarterback Connor Bazelak (2,366 yards, seven touchdowns passing).
Tyler Goodson has rushed for 762 yards and seven touchdowns for Iowa, including an 80-yard run against the Badgers. Quarterback Spencer Petras has passed for 1,569 yards and nine touchdowns - including five in his last two games.
Iowa's season finale against Michigan was canceled, so the Hawkeyes haven't played since Dec. 12. Ferentz contracted the coronavirus during the interim, but he expects to coach in the game and he is hoping the Hawkeyes do not have any pandemic casualties or opt-outs for the game.
"We'll look forward to getting back at it and have a chance to play one more time," Ferentz said. "The biggest thing is for us to be together enjoying each other's company. We've enjoyed each and every chance to go out and compete."
While the Hawkeyes were hoping to get a better bowl assignment, they welcome the chance to get some fans to Nashville. Nissan Stadium will allow limited attendance, something Iowa did not see in conference play.
"It's going to be great for our players, because they'll actually play in front of fans," Ferentz said. "We haven't done that in almost a year."
The Hawkeyes have played in empty stadiums since their victory over USC in last year's Holiday Bowl. They won the Outback Bowl over Mississippi State in 2018 and the Pinstripe Bowl against Boston College in 2017.
The Tigers lost in the Liberty Bowl (against Oklahoma State) in 2018 and the Texas Bowl (against Texas) in 2017. Their last bowl victory came in the 2014 Citrus Bowl against Minnesota.
--Field Level Media
Updated December 27, 2020