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South Carolina (7-5) vs. Iowa (8-4)

Thursday, January 1st, 11:00 a.m. (et).

The Sports Network

By Mike Castiglione, Associate College Football Editor

GAME NOTES: The South Carolina Gamecocks and Iowa Hawkeyes are in Tampa, Florida to square off in the 23rd annual Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium.

It took until his fourth season as head coach, but Steve Spurrier has finally guided his team to a New Year's Day bowl game. The Gamecocks did not go to a bowl last season, and they were beaten by Texas and Florida the two previous post seasons. USC seemed a solid contender in the SEC at one point this year, with six wins in a seven-game span. But the Gamecocks finished the season with a 50-point loss at Florida, followed by a 17-point loss at Clemson.

Iowa was no stranger to close games this season, as the team's four losses were by a combined 12 points. The Hawkeyes made a strong push down the stretch by winning five of their final six games, including a big win over third- ranked Penn State in early-November. However, the team has been idle for five weeks, following a 55-0 thrashing of Purdue on November 22nd. Iowa lost its first eight bowl games before winning four of its past five. The Hawkeyes did not receive a bowl invite last season.

This bout marks the first-ever meeting between Iowa and South Carolina on the gridiron.

Offensively, the Gamecocks will run the ball as often as they throw it. Sophomore Chris Smelley and freshman Stephen Garcia have split time at quarterback, with varied success. Garcia is more of a threat with his legs, as he ran for 173 yards and two TDs on the season. In the passing game, he has thrown for 753 yards and six TDs. Meanwhile, Smelley has thrown for 1,743 yards and 13 TDs. Whoever is under center, one of the primary options has been All-SEC tight end Jared Cook, a 6-5, 240-pound target who caught 35 passes for 550 yards. Another playmaker is wideout Kenny McKinley, who led the team with 48 catches for 556 yards and four TDs, despite playing just nine games.

Mike Davis had a less-than-stellar campaign out of the backfield, averaging just 3.6 ypc and scoring three touchdowns. Kicker Ryan Succop leads the SEC with 19 field goals made, though he also missed nine attempts.

Eric Norwood made the transition from defensive end to linebacker for the Gamecocks this season, and he went on to earn First Team All-SEC honors. Norwood ranks second on the team with 66 tackles (13.5 TFL) and leads the conference with nine sacks. He will have to step up his game even more against Big Ten MVP Shonn Greene, as fellow linebacker and leading tackler Emanuel Cook (87 tackles) has been ruled academically ineligible.

Strong safety Darian Stewart has been excellent in run support, as he has notched 60 tackles (8.0 TFL) and scooped up two fumbles. The Gamecocks have been relentless in getting after the quarterback, especially in the last four games, as they have piled up 18 sacks in that time span.

Hawkeye All-American running back and Doak Walker Award winner Shonn Greene can take over a game by himself. Greene, the nation's second-leading rusher (144.08), set a school record with 1,729 yards on the ground. He was the only player in the nation to eclipse 100 rushing yards in all 12 games. In other words, he is public enemy number-one on every opponents' defensive scheme. He runs behind a solid offensive line, anchored by All-Big Ten guard Seth Olsen. In the rout over Minnesota, Greene racked up 144 yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries.

Hawkeyes quarterback Ricky Stanzi emerged after splitting snaps the first four games. He threw for 1,809 yards and 13 touchdowns on the season, averaging 150.8 ypg. Stanzi is coming off a 255-yard, three-touchdown performance against Minnesota. Split out wide is Derrell Johnson-Koulianos (43 rec, 621 yds, three TDs) and Andy Brodell (33 rec, 506 yds, four TDs), along with All- Big Ten tight end Brandon Myers (30 rec, 392 yds, four TDs). Johnson-Koulianos had a big game against the Golden Gophers, catching seven passes for 181 yards and a TD.

Kicker Trent Mossbrucker hasn't been easily rattled in his first season playing major college football. He leads the Big Ten in field goal percentage after making 13-of-15 attempts.

The Hawkeyes are not an easy team to run against, and that's largely due to the presence of defensive tackle Mitch King (15.5 TFL), the Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year. With King clogging the middle, Iowa led the league in red zone defense and ranked second against the run.

Pat Angerer highlights the linebacking corps after leading the team with 101 tackles and five interceptions. He and Jeremiha Hunter (76 tackles) are rarely caught out of position. In the secondary, cornerback Amari Spievey (65 stops, four interceptions) has earned a reputation as a playmaker. He and Angerer have played a big part in the Hawkeyes ranking third in the nation in interceptions (20).

When the Hawkeyes are at their best, they tend to wear on opponents late in games with Greene and the running game. Iowa's +116 second-half point differential ranks second in the Big Ten. Expect a similar formula in this matchup.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Iowa 27, South Carolina 20

12/29 12:37:35 ET

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