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Orange Bowl at a glance

Josh Nesbitt looks to have more fun during this trip to Miami.
Josh Nesbitt looks to have more fun during this trip to Miami.
Hans Deryk - AP

The bowl season has kicked off and most of the Christmas shopping is done...that means it’s time to starting taking a look at the Orange Bowl.

Tech’s defense vs. Iowa’s offense:

Iowa will welcome back starting QB Ricky Stanzi; his numbers aren’t that impressive, but he’s an effective game manager and the clear-cut leader of this team. Stanzi has directed several fourth quarter miracles this year (see Michigan State, Indiana).

Iowa’s big offensive line will look to run down Tech’s throat (Tech gave up over 600 yards rushing to Georgia and Clemson), and just when Dave Wommack and the defense expect the run, Stanzi will look for WR Derrell Johnson-Koulianos on play-action. Tech will need its DL to play leaps and bounds better than it has since the Virginia Tech game or else this might turn into another shootout...good for ratings, bad for blood pressure. Also, LBs Brad Jefferson, Sedric Griffin, and Steven Sylvester MUST stay in their gaps to avoid another 300-yard rushing disaster. Call me crazy, but this game will make or break defensive coordinator Dave Wommack...players out of position, lack of focus, and a disturbing paucity of adjustments have plagued the Tech defense all year, and that has to fall on the coaching staff. Oh, and enjoy your final view of Derrick Morgan in a Tech uniform.

Tech’s offense vs. Iowa’s defense:

On defense, Iowa has a great set of defensive lineman and linebackers. Not good, great. They might be the best Tech has faced this year, and that includes UNC and Clemson. Defensive coordinator Norm Parker is one of the best there is, so let’s see what he can dial up with a month of preparation. The obvious “something’s gotta give” factor: Georgia Tech’s offense averages 307.2 rushing yards per game; Iowa’s defense gives up an average of 122.0. Of course, the Hawkeyes haven’t faced anything like Tech’s attack. One thing I know for sure: Paul Johnson will have a few wrinkles on standby. You’re not going to see Josh Nesbitt in the shotgun, but you will see some creative blocking schemes and some new or seldom-used formations that will allow Tech to work the perimeter and get those A-backs into open space. I fully expect Iowa to crash on the B-back, so don’t be surprised to see Jonathan Dwyer at A-back for several plays. He’s too good to not get the ball 15-20 times per game. Pass blocking will be essential; Nesbitt needs time in the pocket to keep the Iowa defense honest by throwing a few deep balls to Bay-Bay. I’m guessing Paul Johnson calls more passes than usual in the first quarter to make Iowa forget that they’re supposed to be playing option assignments, only to open up a can of honey-glazed whoopin’ on the ground just as the confusion sets in. God help Iowa if they play zone against Tech.

What’s at stake:

Iowa wants to prove that it deserved the BCS at-large bid and earn some respect for the Big Ten. Georgia Tech has something to prove after getting caught PeeWee Herman-ing it in the Chick-fil-A Bowl against LSU last season. Tech knows that a win means a stitch in the wound for the ACC’s reputation, a preseason top 10 ranking next season complete with better starting position
for a BCS title run, and a nail in the coffin of the asinine belief that you can shut down the option-based spread with extra time to prepare.

Next up...grading Georgia Tech and Iowa based on the 2009 regular season.