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December 28, 2010

Insight Analysis: Final thoughts and prediction

TEMPE, AZ--Over the last two weeks, PowerMizzou.com has broken down the Insight Bowl from every possible action. It is finally game day. We offer up the final word before kickoff, plus our prediction, as the Tigers take on the Iowa Hawkeyes.

When Missouri runs the ball: The Tigers actually ran it pretty well this year. Especially in the last three weeks when they averaged 194 yards per game on the ground. But Iowa has the nation's No. 6 run defense and it's better than any Missouri faced this season. Edge: Iowa

When Missouri throws the ball: The Hawkeyes weren't as good against the pass as against the run…but they were still pretty good. The Hawks gave up just 213 yards per game and allowed only 11 touchdown passes all season. Blaine Gabbert and the Tigers were solid in the passing game, but not as good as they've been the last few seasons. As he is in most games, Michael Egnew is the likely matchup problem for Iowa. This really comes down to one thing: Can Iowa get pressure on Gabbert with their front four? If they can, the Tiger passing game isn't likely to do a whole lot. If the Hawkeyes have to use extra defenders to blitz, Gabbert can take advantage. Edge: Even

When Iowa runs the ball: Three of Iowa's four leading rushers are not playing in this game. The lone exception is Marcus Coker. Coker averaged 67 yards a game, but will now have to carry the load by himself. The Tigers were good, but not great against the run for the most part. Iowa will try to play keep away from Gabbert by controlling the line of scrimmage, but their running game has lost the most important components. Edge: Mizzou

When Iowa throws the ball: He didn't get a lot of national attention, but Ricky Stanzi had a phenomenal year. Stanzi completed 65% of his passes and threw 25 touchdowns against just four picks. But, again, Iowa isn't the same team it was during the season. All-time leading receiver Derrell Johnson-Koulianos is off the team. Marvin McNutt is a very good receiver (though not as good as a few the Tigers saw in Big 12 play). But beyond McNutt, only one Hawkeye who will play in this game caught more than 17 passes. The Tigers were good against the pass most of the year and have a chance to shut down the Hawkeyes here. Edge: Mizzou

Special Teams: Johnson-Koulianos was not only a big-time receiver, but a very good kickoff return man as well. Without him, the Hawkeye return games are pretty average. Missouri's weren't great either this year. The punting games are good for both teams and Iowa has a solid kicker as well. However, he's not been quite as good as Grant Ressel and based on that, we give the Tigers the advantage. Edge: Mizzou

Coaching: Nationally, Kirk Ferentz will get the edge here. And certainly he has done a great job at Iowa, making three BCS games. He's also historically been very good in bowl games. But judging just on this year, Ferentz had a pre-season top ten team that lost five games. Gary Pinkel had a fairly lightly regarded team that won ten. Still, Ferentz has certainly earned the respect he gets. Edge: Mizzou

Intangibles: Iowa has dealt with quite a bit of chaos over the last three weeks. Missouri has simply gone about its business. Last year's Texas Bowl, whether they will admit it publicly or not, is on the minds of every Tiger player and coach. Missouri learned last year that every bowl game is important. You have to wonder if Iowa simply wants to get to the off-season and put all the rumors behind them. Edge: Mizzou

Analysis and Prediction: Iowa is a good team. But when you consistently lose close games, there's a reason. In addition, no team gets better by losing its top rusher and top receiver. Missouri is at full strength for this game and was already better than Iowa. That said, I don't see how this is a blowout. Iowa's defense is too good to allow that. The key matchup in this one is the Tigers' offensive line against Iowa's defensive front. The Hawkeye's front four is good enough to dominate this game. But I don't think the Hawkeyes have the offensive firepower to win it. We'll go with a 23-13 Missouri win.

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