Georgia Tech and Iowa will meet for the first time in Tuesday night’s FedEx Orange Bowl -- a game that features two top 10 teams and two conference coaches of the year. Something’s gotta give in the matchup of the nation’s No. 2 rushing offense (Georgia Tech) against a disciplined defense that holds opponents to just 122 rushing yards per game. There’s more to it than that, though. Here are three keys for each team:
Three keys for Georgia Tech:
1. Stop the run and make Iowa one-dimensional. Georgia Tech wants to make quarterback Ricky Stanzi beat them with his arm, but in order to do that, the Jackets will have to contain Iowa’s running back tandem of Adam Robinson and Brandon Wegher. Robinson leads the team by averaging 77.5 yards per game, while Wegher averages 48. Wegher has scored seven touchdowns and Robinson five. Georgia Tech’s past two opponents haven’t had to throw the ball much because they’ve been able to run it with ease.
2. Save the best for last. Iowa is a fourth-quarter team, and no matter what happens in the first three quarters, it’s not over ‘til it’s over with the Hawkeyes. Georgia Tech will have to play defense through the fourth quarter, as Iowa is 4-1 this season when trailing after three periods. Iowa has won four games by a total of eight points. The Hawkeyes trailed in 10 of 12 games, with the largest deficit being 14 points in the second half against both Indiana and Ohio State. Iowa trailed by 10 points in wins over Northern Iowa, Penn State and Wisconsin. Iowa trailed Indiana by 10 points in the fourth period before winning 42-24.
3. Josh Nesbitt stays status quo. Nesbitt is the catalyst of the offense, and he’s put Georgia Tech in position to win every game this year. The Jackets will need him to keep it up, manage the offense based on what Iowa’s defense is doing and not force anything. He should finish this season with over 1,000 yards rushing and 1,000 yards passing, and odds are he’ll have to make use of both skills to win this one.
Three keys for Iowa
1. Win the turnover battle and sustain drives. Iowa can help its defense out if quarterback Ricky Stanzi shakes off the rust quickly and makes smart decisions with minimal mistakes. He’s thrown 14 interceptions this year. The longer the Hawkeyes can keep Paul Johnson’s offense off the field, the better chance they have of winning. Georgia Tech has had 18 touchdown drives of 10 plays or more this year.
2. Contain defensive end Derrick Morgan. He is a strong pass rusher and can line up in different places, which means that left tackle Bryan Bulaga isn’t going to be the only Hawkeye tasked with holding Morgan back. It will be a group effort, as Morgan leads the ACC and ranks sixth nationally with 12.5 sacks. He also has 18 tackles for loss, and could be playing his last collegiate game.
3. Limit the big plays. Even if Iowa is able to contain the triple option, the Hawkeyes can’t afford to fall asleep defending the run. Georgia Tech -- thanks in large part to receiver Demaryius Thomas and quarterback Josh Nesbitt -- has produced 67 plays of 20 yards or more, 38 plays of 30 yards or more, and 16 plays of 50 yards or longer.