Outback Bowl: Florida Gators vs. Iowa Hawkeyes

Outback Bowl: Florida Gators vs. Iowa Hawkeyes

Date: Jan. 2, 1 p.m. ET on ABC

Location: Raymond James Stadium | Tampa, Florida


Best moment: No question, it was when Florida upset No. 16 LSU in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on that goal-line stop as time expired. The win clinched the SEC East for the second straight year for the Gators and it ruined LSU’s plans of having an extra home game against Florida after Hurricane Matthew pushed the game out of Gainesville, Florida, and into November.

Lowest moment: Losing to Tennessee and Arkansas by double digits, especially that beat-down at Arkansas, were bad, but this team hit rock bottom with a 31-13 at archrival Florida State to conclude the regular season. The Gators had their worst offensive showing of the season and didn’t muster an offensive touchdown.

Key player: Running back Jordan Scarlett is the most consistent offensive weapon the Gators have. He has nearly 800 rushing yards, but he’s a grinder and a slasher at the same time. If he can’t get going to open up the pass, Florida’s offense is sunk, no matter who it faces in the postseason.

Motivation level: It has to be even at this point. Sure, this team wants to win, but for the second straight year, the Gators are ending a year with an East title, but a lot of disappointment with a big loss to Florida State and Alabama in the SEC title game, proving they just aren’t good enough to compete on an elite level yet. -- Edward Aschoff


Best moment: No one gave the Hawkeyes much of a chance against then-No. 3 Michigan at home on Nov. 12, especially a week after they lost at Penn State by 27 points. But an enormous defensive effort and Keith Duncan's field goal as time expired gave Iowa the 14-13 upset that upended the Big Ten race and turned around its own season.

Lowest moment: North Dakota State is no average FCS team, as it has long been a power at that level, capable of beating the big boys. Still, it was an embarrassing moment when the Hawkeyes -- the defending Big Ten West champions who were riding a 14-game regular-season winning streak -- lost to the Bison at home in Week 3. Much of the credibility gained from 2015 vanished that day.

Key player: Desmond King didn’t repeat as the Thorpe Award winner and didn’t match his 2015 interception total. But the senior cornerback had another All-America-caliber season in which he shut down half of the field in the passing game, while also serving as a dangerous kick returner. You don’t want to send the ball his way.

Motivation level: High. The Hawkeyes were 5-4 heading into that Michigan game but finished the season on a high note, winning their final three contests and hammering Nebraska in the finale. They should be feeling good heading into the bowl game and will look to avoid getting blown out like they were in the Rose Bowl against Stanford and in the TaxSlayer Bowl against Tennessee the past two seasons.

-- Brian Bennett