Slugfest awaits Hawkeyes in Outback Bowl

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Jordan Hansen, [email protected]

TAMPA, Fla. — Whenever two defensive teams come up against each other, the same words usually get thrown out.

“Slugfest” is one of those. It’s a good word, a fun word. But what does it really mean? Slug, of course, is not referring to the small little creature you find in a garden but a punch. And while the Hawkeyes are too-well disciplined to throw punches in a game, they are not going to hesitate to trade some blows — a lot of them. Hence “fest.”

This may all seem obvious, but it’s interesting to think about how games are perceived by those who watch them. Anyway, it doesn’t seem as if the 2017 iteration of the Outback Bowl is going to include a lot of scoring. Florida doesn’t have a real strong offense, and the Iowa defense is playing perhaps its best football of the season.

Even so, defensive coordinator Phil Parker would be remiss to ignore two very talented Gator running backs and a number of wide receivers who aren’t pushovers, either.

“I see a well-coached team, I see a very big offensive line, and there’s some skill up front,” Parker said about Florida on Dec. 30. “I think it’s going to be a big challenge for us and to have our eyes in the right spots.”

Like Wisconsin and Michigan, Florida likes to move its players around in the backfield prior to the snap. There are end-arounds, lots and lots of motion, as well as a number of other wrinkles in the Gators’ regular formations.

Florida head coach Jim McElwain has made a number of different stops during his career, and the different types of offenses he’s been around show. It’s not “gimmicky” in the sense there’s a bunch of weird trick plays, but he has a lot of stuff he likes to throw in. We talked about it a bit earlier this month.

“They have a lot of Power-O, kind of like some of our Big Ten teams, so we’re ready for a physical game,” linebacker Josey Jewell said. “They have a lot of athletes, and they can run fast, so we have to be ready for something.”

That said, there are weaknesses. It sounds as if Austin Appleby will start the game for the Gators, which is probably good news for the Hawkeyes. Appleby used to play for Purdue, and Iowa knows exactly what type of quarterback he is.

He’s also probably spent plenty of time scouting the Iowa defense; the Boilermakers have played the Hawkeyes each season since 2010. It’s a decent benefit for Florida to have him on the roster.

Making matters worse, Hawkeye starting cornerback Manny Rugamba won’t play in the Outback Bowl. Joshua Jackson will get the start instead, with Michael Ojemudia taking the place of backup. Iowa’s fourth corner is likely Amani Hooker, who is pretty much a safety right now.

Desmond King is confident in the team — the young players are talented — and one wonders just how things will play out.

“Josh Jackson is a guy who is ready to learn, he’s a guy who’s willing to go out there and play his heart out,” King said. “I think he’s really prepared for it … I think he’s ready to go.”

For the Hawkeyes’ sake, they better hope he is.

The Hawkeyes are going to be in a brawl on the afternoon of Jan. 2, and they can’t afford to have a single weak link.

Follow @JordyHansen for Iowa football news, updates, and analysis.

 

 

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