Posted by Adam Jacobi
IOWA WILL WIN IF: Oklahoma feels like loaning the Hawkeyes a few starters, especially one at RB. Iowa faced long, long odds in this game even with its backfield at full strength. Now, starting RB Marcus Coker -- second only to Montee Ball among Big Ten RBs in rushing yards and touchdowns -- has been suspended and will not join the team at the Insight Bowl, and top backup Mika'il McCall was also suspended before the Nebraska game and will also not join the team. Iowa had a chance to pull an upset here with a running game to fall back on; now, QB James Vandenberg's going to have to basically carry the offense, and that's not a recipe for success.
OKLAHOMA WILL WIN IF: The pass rush on the edge continues its dominance. Oklahoma is seventh nationally in sacks per game at just over three per, and defensive ends Frank Alexander and Ronnell Lewis are a big part of that; the two players lead the Sooners in sacks and have combined for 14 on the year, but the beauty of Oklahoma's pass rush is its ability to get production out of its blitzers. 15 out of the 37 sacks racked up by the Sooners this year have come from the back seven, often from the edge, and that's precisely where Iowa has faced its most difficulty picking up blitzes when they've come from outside rather than up the middle. So being that Iowa's not going to keep OU on its heels with an effective running game, the Sooners should be prepared to pin their heels back on the outside and tee off with the pass rush.
THE X-FACTOR: Motivation. Oklahoma spent most of the season as a legitimate national championship contender, so to slide this far and end up in a December bowl against a 7-5 opponent like Iowa is probably going to have a deleterious effect on Oklahoma's ability to get motivated for this game. Additionally, Iowa just slodged through its most mediocre season since 2007 and already played in the Insight Bowl last year. So between those two factors, it's easy to envision that players on both sides might have a tougher time than usual getting up for this game. As such, whichever team blocks out the distractions and puts together good, honest hard work in preparation for this game is probably going to have an early edge. Bowl teams from BCS conferences are generally good enough to beat any opponent that isn't adequately prepared or motivated for the game, but there's really no telling who holds the edge here.
Keep up with all the latest on Oklahoma and Iowa at the Insight Bowl Pregame.
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Keys to the Game: Insight Bowl, Iowa vs. Oklahoma
Posted on: December 29, 2011 2:22 am