With a pre-season #1 ranking under their belt, few would expect the Oklahoma Sooners (9-3, 6-3 Big 12) to end up playing in the Insight Bowl against the Iowa Hawkeyes (7-5, 4-4 Big Ten), however for football fans looking to catch the best pre-BCS bowl games ahead of New Year’s day, tonight’s match-up between two storied football programs should be an exciting game to watch and wager on at one of the top reviewed online sportsbookstoday.
Oklahoma has suffered a couple of critical injuries to star players this season which certainly didn’t help them in their hopes of possibly playing in the BCS Fiesta Bowl this season, instead of their current spot in the Insight Bowl. Losing lead running back Dominique Whaley to a broken ankle in Week 6 definitely hurt the Sooners chances when faced with big offenses like Baylor and Oklahoma State (who accounted for 2 losses in 3 games to end the season), but perhaps even more detrimental to OU’s hopes was the loss of the NCAA’s all-time leader in receptions, Ryan Broyles, who fell out of action before the final three games of the season due to a torn ACL. That has really shaken the confidence of starting quarterback Landry Jones (%63.1 completion rate, 4302 yards, 28 TDs), who didn’t throw a single TD pass in the final three weeks of play without Broyles. Throwing 5 interceptions in 3 weeks as OU dropped 2 of their last three, Jones and the Sooners will be at a further loss without wideout Jaz Reynolds, tailback Brandon Williams, and fullback Aaron Ripkowski available for tonight’s game, and could find themselves in trouble against Iowa if they’re unable to generate much offense against a decent Iowa defensive unit. Thus, the first key for Oklahoma tonight is to find a way to get comfortable on offense, without their top players in the lineup. Landry Jones simply has to find his confidence again, and getting step-up play from a few relative unknowns. Oklahoma has to start with doing what they do best; throw the football early and often (they’re 4th in the nation at 365.1 passing yards/game), get opponents back on their heels, and then with a lead, pound the rock on the ground.
For the Iowa Hawkeyes tonight, being able to put the ball on the ground is going to be a huge question mark, especially with the loss of leading rusher Marcus Coker (281 carries, 1384 yards, 15 TDs), due to a recent suspension. Finding a way to fill the void left by a running back who accounts for 35 percent of Iowa’s offensive plays and 36 percent of the team’s touchdowns will be no easy task, considering that no one left in the Hawkeyes running game has more than 18 touches or 79 yards on the ground (freshman De’Andre Hall’s totals). With Iowa not all that big in the running game anyways (76th in the FBS with 142 yards/game), someone, either Hall, or Jordan Canzeri, has to step up in a big way. That’s a lot to ask for a couple of freshmen with little experience in big games (or any games at all at the College level), but Iowa simply can’t expect to contend going one-dimensional on offense leaning on the passing game. Oklahoma may have its issues with Landry Jones right now and a depleted offense, but allowing the Sooners’ defense to focus on the passing game alone won’t help Iowa out at all. Thus, for Iowa, getting a sleeper performance from somewhere unexpected is essential for the Hawkeyes staying in balance against an Oklahoma team that will find ways to put up points using both the run and the pass.
Defense is another critical area of this ballgame, especially with many new faces filling in on both offensive sides, and both teams relatively limited in their offensive options. For Iowa, getting to Landry Jones is a must. Without Ryan Broyles and Jaz Reynolds in the passing game, the Hawkeyes defensive backs can focus in on Kenny Stills (58 catches, 818 yards, 8 TDs) who has been decent downfield, but is nowhere near as dangerous without the presence of Broyles in the lineup. Senior tight end James Hanna (25 catches, 363 yards, 2 TDs) should see more balls tonight as well, but if Iowa can blanket these two key pass catchers for most of the game, Landry Jones will be much more susceptible to pressure that causes mistakes, as he’s not as comfortable throwing to the rest of the OU pass-catching group. With Oklahoma needing to get their passing game back in order first and foremost, it’ll be critical to the Hawkeye’s cause to get plenty of pressure on Jones tonight. A comfortable Jones in the pocket throwing with plenty of time will result in Iowa getting burned frequently downfield, but a pressured Jones moving out of the pocket could set up a few interception chances, which could help to sway the advantage in the game towards Iowa. Take note that in each game that the Sooners have lost this year, they’ve faltered on the turnover margin (-2 to Texas Tech, -3 to Baylor, -4 to Oklahoma State), so Iowa would do themselves well to rush Jones often, and try to take advantage of the OU ball carriers who are filling in for injured starters.
For Oklahoma on defense in tonight’s match-up, making Iowa one-sided is crucial, as is winning the turnover battle. The Sooners need to set a precedence against the run, shutting down an opportunities that are presented at the line of scrimmage, so that they can work on rushing the passing game led by a capable Iowa quarterback in James Vandenberg (%59.4 completion rate, 2806 yards, 23 TDs to 6 INTs) who doesn’t give up the ball often. Getting a big rush at Vandenberg, who is supported at wide out by Marvin McNutt (78 catches, 1269 yards, 12 TDs and Keenan Davis (45 catches, 637 yards, 4 TDs), will be a key area of focus for OU, and its equally important for the Sooners to find a way to generate a few takeaways. A glaring stat in the turnover game once again for Oklahoma; OU generated just 1 turnover in 3 losses, but pulled down 24 turnovers in 9 wins. While it’s fortunate for the Sooners that Iowa is not very adept at forcing mistakes (getting just 3 INTs in their last 6 games played), Oklahoma has to be opportunistic on defense and force some bad decisions, and follow through with capitalizing on those created turnovers. The Sooners give up plenty of points (22.8 on the season, 29.7 over their last 6 contests), and lots of yards (449 total yards allowed during that same final stretch), so with that in mind they simply have to win the turnover battle to secure a victory tonight.
Betting Lines for #14 Oklahoma vs. Iowa at Sportsbetting Sportsbook
Looking over the online betting options at the Sportsbetting Sportsbook today, we find Oklahoma as a heavy favorite to win on the money line, pulling down -600 odds to win while Iowa sits at +450 odds to secure an underdog victory. With both teams missing key stars for tonight’s match-up, the first expectation for the bottom line will be a lower over/under total, indicated by the 57 points given (-110 odds either way) for this game. After being thoroughly blown out on the over/under line for Baylor vs. Washington (not expecting THAT bad of defense), I’m going to put my money where my mouth is once again, and hedge on the under wager once more. With two leading rushers out (one per side), and Oklahoma missing a slew of starters and back-ups, this game will take a little while to generate some offense, which may make for a reduce points total that barely beats out the over/under to the low side. For the last look for betting on this Oklahoma vs. Iowa match-up, the spread seems awfully high in favor of Oklahoma (13.5 point favorites at -105 odds), considering they are without Dominique Whaley and Ryan Broyles, but as Iowa is missing 35 percent of their offense with running back Marcus Coker out and will struggle to be diverse in play calling, a solid Sooners finish to the year could find them up by two TDs at the final whistle without much effort.
Our Pick to Win:
Oklahoma is definitely another team that one could say will experience a let-down game in a lesser bowl than they expected to be in, but that discounts the deep traditions that OU has and the excellent coaching abilities of Bob Stoops to get his team ready for a bowl game under the national spotlight. The Sooners simply will not allow themselves to be booted out of the AP Top 25 with a loss against Iowa. Though the Hawkeyes have been good recently in bowl games, and have experience on this particular stage in Tempe, the loss of their leading rusher means the loss of the game tonight. They won’t find enough offense to stack up to OU’s ability to move the football against them, and while the game could be tight heading into half, come the 3rd and 4th quarters, Iowa will be faltering on defense allowing Landry Jones to make a few key game-changing strikes downfield. The Sooners cap off a frustrating season with a final win, and beat the Hawkeyes 35-17.