The Iowa Hawkeyes fly into Tempe, Arizona on Tuesday, December 28, to take on their southern neighbor, the Missouri Tigers, 2010 Insight Bowl.

The Hawkeyes (7-5, 4th in the Big 10) should be thankful they’re not back in Iowa City playing for salad bowls at a local buffet.  On November 6th, the Hawkeyes looked like a BCS-Bowl contender.  The week before Iowa defeated #5 Michigan State 37-6.  On November 6th, the #16 Hawkeyes narrowly defeated Indiana 18-13, using the last drive heroics of Iowa quarterback Rick Stanzi to come from behind and win.

Then Iowa traveled to long-time nemesis Northwestern, who prior to the November 13th game, spoiled four of the last five seasons for the Hawkeyes.  Make the five of the last six.  The Wildcats used two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to defeat Iowa 21-17, eliminating the Hawkeyes chance for a Big 10 title and a big-time bowl game.  Iowa tried to rebound against #9 Ohio State and Minnesota, but came up a field goal short in each game to finish the regular season on a three-game losing streak.

Missouri (10-2, 1st in the Big 12-North) are playing as well as the Hawkeyes are bad.  The Tigers opened the season winning the first seven games, including upsetting then #1 Oklahoma 36-27 in Columbia.  Then somehow Mizzu lost its focus.  The Tigers were beat 31-17 by #14 Nebraska.  To make matters worse, Mizzu then lost 24-17 to Texas Tech.  Tiger quarterback Blaine Gabbert took to heart the pep talk given to him by head coach Gary Pinkel, finding his mojo to beat back #24 Kansas State 38-28.  Missouri finished the regular season by outscoring Iowa State and Kansas by a combined score of 49-7.

Iowa’s Stanzi needs to have a career defining game in order for the Hawkeyes to beat Missouri.  And he will have to do it without All-Big Ten receiver Derrell Johnson-Koulianous, who was suspended by head coach Kirk Ferentz for Johnson-Koulianous’ arrest the first week in December for drug possession.  Also not playing in the Insight Bowl for disciplinary reasons is running back Adam Robinson.  Robinson led the team in rushing with 941 yards and 10 touchdowns on 203 carries.  The next leading rusher is Marcus Coker.  Coker, a freshman, has 401 yards rushing and one touchdown on 81 carries.  The next ten rushing options for Iowa are a combined 72 carries for 402 yards and one touchdown.

Johnson-Koulianous is the second leading receiver on the Hawkeyes, with 46 receptions for 745 yards and 10 touchdowns.  Luckily for Iowa, Stanzi likes to throw, having hit another five receivers throughout the year besides Johnson-Koulianous and Robinson.  Marvin McNutt led the Hawkeyes in receiving this year with 51 receptions for 798 yards and eight touchdowns.  Other options for Stanzi to throw to are Allen Reisner, Colin Sandeman and Keenan Davis.

But Stanzi will have to rely on his senior leadership and stats to give Iowa a chance.  Stanzi finish the 2010 regular season as his best year at Iowa.  Stanzi recorded career bests in all major categories, including a touchdown-to-interception ratio of almost 5-to-1.

Missouri will does not have the distractions that Iowa has.  What the Tigers do have is momentum and confidence.   Mizzu also has an offensive football machine that operates like a well-oiled unit.  Six rushers, including Gabbert, have at least 22 carries and at least 100 yards rushing for the season.  De’Vion Moore and Henry Josey both have over 400 yards rushing.  Kendial Lawrence has 382 yards rushing and Marcus Murphy and James Franklin have over 100 yards rushing.  Gabbert has 99 carries for 239 yards.  Gabbert also exhibits some speed, having scored a touchdown from 32 yards out.

Gabbert also like to spread the passes around, hitting 14 different receivers this year.  The top four on the team, however, account for the majority of the completions.  TJ More leads the team in yardage with 893 on 77 catches.  Micheal Egnew is has 83 receptions for 698 yards; Jerrell Jackson has 41 catches for 527 yards and Wes Kemp has 32 catches for 359 yards.

This game could go either way.  Iowa will win if Stanzi has his way with Missouri’s secondary.  Stanzi, who has suffered injuries in seasons past, is no threat to run.  That being said, he does have a 26-yard run back in the middle of the season.  Look for Stanzi to set up the run by dumping off short routes.

In order for Missouri to win, the Tigers will have to continue to use every option available on every play, taking what the Iowa defense will give them.  Missouri will have to chew up the game clock because as good as the Tigers record maybe, Gabbert cannot match Stanzi play for play and expect to win.