Fresh off back-to-back losses, No. 17 Florida Gators football hopes to avoid ending its season with three straight defeats for the second year in a row when it faces the Iowa Hawkeyes in the 2017 Outback Bowl.
Here’s what you need to know and how you can watch Gators-Hawkeyes.
Event: 2017 Outback Bowl
Location: Raymond James Stadium – Tampa, Florida [Capacity: 65,657]
Time: 1 p.m. EST
TV: ABC (Mike Patrick, Ed Cunningham, Dr. Jerry Punch)
Live Updates: @OnlyGators on Twitter
Tale of the tape
|No. 17 Florida Gators||Iowa Hawkeyes|
|Head Coach||Jim McElwain||Kirk Ferentz|
Three things to know
1. Man, this team is injured: By the time the Outback Bowl kicks off Monday, the Gators will likely be without three starting linebackers (already ruled out), both starting defensive ends, and both starting safeties. And that’s just on defense. This all comes after redshirt junior LB Alex Anzalone (arm) practiced most of last week and senior LB Jarrad Davis was seen on the practice field getting in some non-contact work. Despite all of that, neither will play. Redshirt senior Daniel McMillian, redshirt freshman Kylan Johnson and freshman Vosean Joseph will likely see almost all of the work in the middle of the defense.
The good news for Florida is that it’s been practicing and playing without most of these guys for weeks, which will not only help on Saturday but in the early going next season. The bad news is that all the aforementioned injured players are exceedingly talented and a big reason why the Gators were one of the top defenses in the nation last season. Iowa walks into Tampa with a bottom-10 offense nationally, which should also help, but it has also had plenty of time to prepare for a unit it may be able to take advantage of in the game.
2. A legitimate chance for redemption: The Gators were embarassed a year ago when Michigan throttled Florida 41-6 in the Citrus Bowl. As he usually does, McElwain said the Outback Bowl is another opportunity for UF to go out and prove itself against a quality opponent, but it’s actually much more than that. Florida on Monday has a chance to show a national audience — recruits included — that it is a relevant team deserving of attention entering next season. If the Gators lose — and particularly if they get beat badly — it would be the second straight year that Florida won the SEC East only to end the season with three straight losses to Florida State, Alabama and a Big Ten team in a bowl game. It’s tough to excuse that once, let alone twice.
3. Last call: There could be as many as 11 players either playing or sidelined on Monday that started or saw significant action this season and will no longer be in a Gators uniform come 2017. Among them are junior cornerbacks Jalen Tabor and Quincy Wilson (active), redshirt junior defensive tackle Caleb Brantley (active), junior offensive lineman David Sharpe (active) and Anzalone (inactive), who could all declare for the 2017 NFL Draft after the game. These players will be faced with the option of stepping up like Dante Fowler did two years ago and putting together an incredible performance for their NFL resumes or somewhat mailing it in like a couple players did last year. Based on how these guys have stepped up to this point, the former is much more likely than the latter, which could be the huge boost the Gators need to edge the Hawkeyes.
4. Old face, new place: Due in part to his lacking effectiveness on offense and Florida’s loss of bodies on defense, don’t be surprised if you see senior Chris Thompson in the defensive backfield at some point on Monday. McElwain said this week that it might help Thompson down the road. (Former UF wideout Quinton Dunbar has actually made NFL starts at cornerback after switching positions following graduation.)
Pick and analysis
Spread: Florida -1.5 | O/U: 40
The Gators have been one of the toughest teams in the nation to read from an against-the-spread perspective this season. Florida is 5-7 ATS this season, including 4-4 as a favorite and 2-5 in road or neutral-site games. It’s also 8-4 on the under, which speaks to its lack of offense. When you consider that Iowa has similar ATS and under records this season and that both teams are among the top 25 in defense and bottom 25 in offense, that tells you all you need to know about this game, right?
Wrong. I find it hard to believe that one of these two teams will not find a way to put points on the board Monday. Something has to give. Either the Gators will have built up some tremendous motivation from being lambasted all season for their offense, or the Hawkeyes will be able to take advantage of a UF defense ravaged by injuries.
So while all metrics say the under is the play here, let us remember that this bowl season has been a crazy one and that means this game will sneak over just barely. As far as whether Florida will cover its meager spread, let’s put it this way: If you’re actually going to make a pick in this game, the Gators are the right side. Florida has a mobile quarterback, a number of talented running backs and two electric wide receivers. If they can find some momentum, points are possible — or at least sustained drives that lead to long field goals.
2016 records: ATS picks 4-8 | O/U picks 5-7
Injuries and absences
Active (2): DB Duke Dawson (ankle), K Eddy Pineiro (heart condition)
Available (1): QB Luke Del Rio (shoulder)
Questionable (2): S Nick Washington (ankle), DE Bryan Cox Jr. (ankle)
Doubtful/No updates (6): C Cameron Dillard (knee), S Jeawon Taylor (arm), DE Justus Reed (undisclosed), RB Mark Herndon (hamstring), LB Jeremiah Moon (thumb), WR C.J. Worton (undisclosed)
Out (2): LB Jarrad Davis (ankle), LB David Reese (wrist)
Out for the season (6): DE Jordan Sherit (knee), LB Alex Anzalone (arm), S Marcus Maye (arm), WR Dre Massey (knee), OL Antonio Riles (knee), DB C.J. McWilliams (undisclosed)
» Florida is 2-1 all-time against Iowa — all in bowl games — with two previous meetings in Tampa at the Outback Bowl (1-1). UF won the most recnet meeting 31-24 in 2006.
» The Gators are 2-2 all-time in the Outback Bowl with their other win over Penn State in the 2011 game.
» Florida is appearing in a bowl game for the 43rd time and holds an even 21-21 record in the prior 42 games. It will be the 27th time the Gators will play in a January bowl game. UF had appeared in a bowl game for 22 straight seasons before missing the postseason in 2013. This is the third straight year it will play in a bowl.
» Jim McElwain is the first coach in SEC history to play for the conference title in his first two seasons at the helm of his program.
» UF’s defense has been a hallmark of the program; the Gators are 212-11 since 1990 when an opponent scores 21 points or fewer in a contest, including 17-0 under McElwain.
» Also under McElwain, Florida is 16-1 against unranked opponents and 2-7 against ranked opponents. UF is 14-0 when outrushing an opponent, 16-3 when scoring first and 14-1 when leading at half.
» The Gators own the nation’s longest streak of returning either a kickoff or punt for a touchdown, doing so in 12 straight seasons.
» Florida has the second-most wins in the nation since 1990 (257).
Florida looks to be wearing white jerseys and white pants with orange helmets — based on its team pictures — in the Outback Bowl. The team captains, which change weekly, are responsible for choosing the uniforms ahead of each game.