Posted by Adam Jacobi
Why to Watch: For those who enjoy a good storyline, the Insight Bowl's got plenty of reasons to imagine that a blood feud is about to get its next chapter. The Iowa - Missouri rivalry is one that predates football itself, as the "Honey War" can attest, and a series of racist and savage acts by the Missouri fans led to a 100-year freeze in the rivalry (not that the 100-year thing was specifically mandated; Iowa and Missouri were contracted to start a series in 2005, but that fell through). These guys must really hate each other (if they're historians)!
For those more concerned with actual football, the Insight Bowl represents an opportunity to see two highly touted quarterbacks at work, not to mention two big-play defenses. Iowa QB Ricky Stanzi spent a good portion of the season in the top 5 nationwide in passing efficiency, and while Missouri QB Blaine Gabbert didn't go downfield nearly enough to match Stanzi's efficiency numbers, Gabbert did lead the Tigers to more points than the Hawkeyes scored on the year.
Keys to victory for Iowa: Obviously, the Hawkeyes' season didn't quite go as fans had hoped, and summer BCS dreams quickly gave way to a cold autumn's angst as the Hawkeyes melted down in November. Those who looked at Iowa's three-loss streak as a low point of the season were quickly proven wrong when star wideout Derrell Johnson-Koulianos was arrested on a litany of drug charges, and rumors swirled about other misdeeds on the program for days until Kirk Ferentz addressed them at a press conference the next week. Not helping the matter was the fact that Ferentz was announcing that other players (all tailbacks) would be missing the Insight Bowl.
Thus, if there's one challenge for Iowa, it's to put the past behind it and have the seniors go out and play one last good game in the black and gold. Easier said than done, of course, when the team has such a rich history of 4th quarter collapses, but the talent's at least there to give Missouri a fight.
Keys to victory for Missouri: The Tigers allowed a hair under 16 points a game in Big XII play, and that defense is going to have another opportunity to shine tonight. As mentioned before, Iowa is without Derrell Johnson-Koulianos after his multiple drug charges got him kicked off the team, and it also misses starting tailback Adam Robinson , who was suspended for academic reasons even before his arrest (drug charges!) on Monday night. Combine those losses with a patchwork Iowa offensive line, and Missouri should be able to disrupt the Iowa offense without much difficulty.
That's not to say that the Tigers' offense will find an easy task ahead on the field; Iowa's defense has also been stout on the season, and while it struggled in the 4th quarter on numerous occasions, Iowa also had no problem running up insurmountably large leads on bowl teams Penn State, Michigan, and Michigan State over the course of the year. Fortunately for Missouri, Iowa's pass defense has struggled on medium-range throws, thanks to inexperience and injuries in the LB corps, and that's where Gabbert likes to find All-American TE Michael Egnew . Egnew won't stretch the field, but he'll move the chains and wear down the defense. Getting Gabbert into a rhythm with Egnew and top wideout T.J. Moe will be crucial.
The Insight Bowl is like: a beloved upscale restaurant that recently lost a Michelin star. Iowa and Missouri both spent time in the Top 10 this season, and if you'd have heard back in October that they'd be meeting in a bowl at the end of the year, you'd have probably guessed a BCS bowl before the Insight Bowl, which hosted 6-6 powerhouses Iowa State and Minnesota last season. Yet here we are, after Iowa took a dive in the standings and Missouri tumbled down the iist of Big XII bowl priority for the umpteenth year in a row. The drop in reputation for both is troubling, but like your next meal at that restaurant after losing the Michelin star, the next experience will be instructive as to why that happened. Are the teams really not as good as advertised? Is it just the result of correctable mistakes? Can we enjoy them as if nothing bad had ever happened? Is it really worth it to spend three hours with them this late at night after this hit in the ratings? Tune in and we'll find out.