The last time Georgia Tech played in the Orange Bowl (Jan. 1, 1967) it was Bobby Dodd’s last game as head coach. On the other side of the field was Florida quarterback Steve Spurrier, the Heisman Trophy winner. Much has changed. Spurrier completed 14 of 30 passes for 160 yards and the Gators won the game 27-12. History will also note that future Atlanta Falcons running back Harmon Wages completed a pass in the game for the Gators.
On that historical note, here are five burning questions about tonight’s Orange Bowl game between Georgia Tech and Iowa:
1. Did Iowa put its time off to good use? The Hawkeyes haven’t played a football game since Nov. 21 when they beat Minnesota 12-0 for the Floyd of Rosedale Trophy. So the Iowa defense, which is already a salty bunch to begin with (10th nationally in total defense at 286.87 ypg), has had about 44 days to get ready for Georgia Tech’s option attack. Norm Parker is one of the best defensive coordinators in America but here is one thing to note: Iowa is a top ten defense but is No. 30 nationally against the run (122.0 ypg). Tech hopes to get that many yards in the first quarter.
2. Is Ricky Stanzi the X-factor? Stanzi’s injury after Iowa’s 9-0 start cost the Hawkeyes a shot at the Big Ten championship and the Rose Bowl. Iowa was not a pretty team on offense even when Stanzi was healthy. He has been known to throw the ball into bad places. He has thrown 15 touchdowns and 14 interceptions this season. But Stanzi can play horribly for three quarters and then make the plays in the fourth quarter to win a game, as he did against Michigan State, when his touchdown pass on the final play of the game gave the Hawkeyes a 15-13 win at East Lansing.
3. Is this Josh Nesbitt’s kind of game? Absolutely. This will be an ugly, tough football game and that is what the Georgia Tech quarterback likes. Nesbitt is going to get some chances to make some plays tonight because the Iowa defense, like most defenses, understand that they must first take the dive play with Jonathan Dwyer to have any chance to win. Note that in Georgia Tech’s two losses to Miami and Georgia, Dwyer had a total of 40 yards rushing. Nesbitt is going to take some serious shots tonight. Keep an eye on Iowa defensive end Adrian Clayborn (No. 94). He is an All-Big Ten pick. He will introduce himself to Nesbitt early and often.
4. What does the Georgia Tech defense need to do? Think third and long. After watching the Georgia Tech defense play against Georgia and Clemson, there is no doubt that the Hawkeyes are going to try and establish the run and put Stanzi into third and short situations. That is when his play action passing is most effective. Georgia Tech’s defense has to be tough on first and second down in order to put Stanzi into third and long. That’s when DC Dave Wommack can turn DE Derrick Morgan loose to go get the quarterback. Look at the third down plays in Iowa’s first half possessions. If Iowa faces third and more than five yards most of the time, then Tech’s defense is having a good game.
5. What if it’s a close game? I certainly expect it to be close because Iowa’s defense is so good and Tech’s defense has been struggling. A close game goes to Paul Johnson most of the time. In two seasons at Georgia Tech Johnson is 10-1 in games decided by five points or less. Johnson knows how to push the right buttons at the end of a game. Johnson and the Georgia Tech offense may have to be very patient tonight because Iowa has the ability to keep its opponent in a low-scoring game. If you press and try to force things then you’re playing right into Iowa’s hands.
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