Iowa (12-1) vs Stanford (11-2)
When: Friday, January 1st 2016
Where: Rose Bowl, Pasadena, CA
Time: 5:00 ET | TV: ESPN
Stanford will be playing in their third Rose Bowl game in four years when the meet they meet Iowa, who will be playing in Pasadena for the first time since 1991. Stanford lost their opener at Northwestern 16-6 and scored their fewest points since 2007, but rebounded with eight straight wins. They were poised for a run at the Playoffs, but fell 38-36 to a red-hot Oregon team on November 14th that all but ended that quest. They lead the nation in time of possession and that’s due in part to running back Christian McCaffrey. He broke Barry Sanders’ record for total yards in a season by amassing 3,496 yards this season including 461 in the PAC-12 title game win over USC. Senior quarterback Kevin Hogan was a great compliment to McCaffrey. He was an extremely effective 68.6% passer with 24 touchdowns to only seven interceptions. He hasn’t thrown an interception in the last three games and has six touchdowns over that span. He completed 17-of-21 in a win over Notre Dame in the second to last game of the season. Stanford is 3-1 in games decided by three points or less – something that might come into play today. Linebacker Blake Martinez leads a defense that is solid against the run. He averages a Pac-12-high 10.2 tackles per game.
The Hawkeyes were one win away from playing Alabama in the Cotton Bowl, but after seeing what they did to Michigan State yesterday, they’re probably very thankful to be playing in the Rose Bowl. Iowa finished 7-6 last year and were unranked to begin the season. They won their first 12 games before falling to Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship game 16-13. They were benefited from an easy conference schedule in which they didn’t face Michigan, Michigan State (until the title game), Ohio State, or Penn State. Iowa’s strength is their run defense which ranked 10th nationally allowing 114.9 yards a game. The secondary is led by first team All-American Desmond King, who received the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation’s top defensive back after recording eight interceptions while averaging 25.6 yards per kickoff return and 12.7 yards on punts this season. For the Hawkeyes to win their school-record 13th game and their first Rose Bowl since beating Cal in 1959, they’ll need another quarterback C.J. Beathard to step up. He threw 15 touchdowns this season against three interceptions and rushed for six more scores. Running back Jordan Canzeri left the Big Ten title game with a sprained right ankle, but is expected to play in the Rose Bowl. He ran for 976 yards and 12 touchdowns this year.
I really think Iowa is just the third best team in the Big Ten and they’ll be facing their best opponent this year. McCaffrey is a stud who should have another big game. He might not get as many rushing yards as usual, but he’ll be very dangerous out of the backfield catching balls. Hogan is smart and savvy and I expect Stanford to roll in this one.
Pick: Stanford -6