Wine Online: Crunching the Orange Bowl Numbers

Dec. 20, 2009

IOWA CITY, Iowa — The Orange Bowl matches Georgia Tech’s explosive offense against Iowa’s stingy defense. In fact, it’s a perfect match. NCAA stats show Tech as the 11th best offense among 120 BCS teams, while Iowa’s defense ranks 11th.

Tech has scored 35.3 points a game. Iowa has given up less than half of that (15.5). One team will try to impose its will on the other, and both will have had a month to formulate their game plans.

Looking at it from the other direction, Tech might have an advantage. Iowa offense has averaged 23.1 points a game, which ranks 10th in the Big Ten. Tech`s defense has allowed about the same number (24.8). Tech relies heavily on its running game out of a triple option offense, in which the quarterback either (1) gives the ball to his fullback, (2) fakes to the fullback and keeps it himself, or (3) fakes to the fullback and pitches to another back.

That offense has worked so well that Tech averages 307.2 rushing yards a game, which ranks second among BCS teams, and has scored 34 rushing touchdowns. (In contrast, Iowa has averaged 109.4 yards rushing and has 12 rushing touchdowns.)

Tech rushed for more than 400 yards against three opponents, and scored at least 30 points nine times. Iowa will counter with a defense that held two opponents without a touchdown and five others to one TD each.

Tech doesn’t throw much and has completed only 47.8 percent of its passes, but has averaged 23.2 yards per completion, an astonishingly high number. Nine completions have been for more than 50 yards each.

Probably because it pitches the ball around in its triple-option offense, Tech has fumbled 34 times and lost 12. Iowa’s ball security has been much better, losing only 7 of 9 fumbles.

And consider this: Wisconsin and Penn State are the two highest scoring teams in the Big Ten, averaging 32.8 points and 29.7 respectively. Yet Iowa held them each to 10 points, winning both games on the road.

In the Orange Bowl, Iowa will be facing a type of offense it has not seen this year. In fact, it’s an offense most of the Hawkeyes have probably never played against. But Norm Parker says the same principals apply in stopping Tech’s triple-option as any other attack.

“You have to get off the block and make the tackle,” says the man who is completing his 11th season as Iowa’s defensive coordinator.

The Hawkeyes have been very good at getting off blocks and making tackles this season. It’s a big reason they are ranked No. 10 in the nation and playing in a BCS bowl game.

This Orange Bowl is all about Georgia Tech’s offense versus Iowa’s defense. The odds makers say offense will prevail. The Hawkeyes will try to prove them wrong. This shapes up to be a very interesting football game.


Iowa was the only Big Ten team to win a bowl game last season, but the analysts on the Big Ten Network think the conference will have a winning record this time around. The sports books in Las Vegas disagree. If they are right, the Big Ten will be 2-5 in bowl games.

Wisconsin is a 3 ½ point underdog to Miami in the Champs Bowl.

Minnesota is a 2 ½ point favorite to beat Iowa State in the Insight Bowl.

Northwestern is a 7 point underdog to Auburn in the Outback Bowl.

Penn State is a 2 ½ point favorite to beat LSU in the Capital One Bowl.

Ohio State is a 3 ½ point underdog to Oregon in the Rose Bowl.

Michigan State is an 8 point underdog to Texas Tech in the Alamo Bowl.

Iowa is a 4 point underdog to Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl.