Here's a quick breakdown of Tuesday night's matchup between Georgia Tech (11-2) and Iowa (10-2):
WHO TO WATCH: Georgia Tech’s defensive front seven. Much has been made about the matchup between Georgia Tech’s offense against Iowa’s defense, and deservedly so, but if the Jackets don’t get Iowa off the field, it could be a long night. Paul Johnson has said he wants to stop the run and make Iowa one-dimensional. In their only two losses of the season – against Miami and Georgia – the best defense against the Jackets was simply keeping Georgia Tech’s offense off the field. Georgia Tech isn’t a catch-up team. They’re much better when they’re controlling the clock, and Georgia Tech’s defense will have to help.
WHAT TO WATCH: The turnover battle. Georgia Tech had three costly fumbles in its loss to LSU last year in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. The Jackets have cut down on their fumbles this year and have a plus-seven turnover margin, while Iowa has a plus-six. They key, though, is Iowa’s 19 interceptions. Quarterback Ricky Stanzi will return from an ankle injury that kept him out of the final two regular-season games, and while Stanzi has the uncanny ability to morph into one of the best quarterbacks in the country in the fourth quarter, he also has a tendency to give the ball away. Stanzi has 15 touchdowns and 14 interceptions this year. Still, Georgia Tech’s secondary has been somewhat accommodating at times this year.
WHY WATCH: Because it’s been a long, long time since Georgia Tech was in a bowl game that meant this much (since 1967), and because the Jackets have the chance to cap off the ACC’s first winning bowl season since 2005. It could also be the final collegiate game for a handful of impressive Georgia Tech juniors, namely Demaryius Thomas, Jonathan Dwyer and Derrick Morgan. This game also features two coaches who were named Coach of the Year in their respective conferences in Georgia Tech’s Paul Johnson and Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz.
PREDICTION: Georgia Tech will punt. Iowa’s defense is good enough to at least force them to do that. (The Jackets enter this game having not punted in 22 straight possessions – since the Nov. 14 game at Duke). The Yellow Jackets will have a tough time stringing together any 11-minute drives in this game (see: Virginia). But in the end, Paul Johnson will make the necessary adjustments on the fly, and simply put – regardless of how the defense plays – Georgia Tech will find a way to score more points. The Yellow Jackets will redeem themselves from last year’s Chick-fil-A Bowl loss with a 28-24 win over the Hawkeyes.