TV Schedule: Friday, January 1, 5:00 p.m. ET ESPN
Stadium: Rose Bowl, Pasadena, Calif.
Line: Stanford (-6.5)
The Stanford Cardinal (11-2) meet up with the Iowa Hawkeyes (12-1) in what should be a terrific football game on New Year’s Day. Both squads may be disappointed they aren’t in the playoff, but that shouldn’t affect the game in a negative way. It has all the potential to be the best non-playoff game of this bowl season.
Obviously, on the Stanford side of the ball, Christian McCaffrey is the player to watch. The Heisman Trophy runner-up had a season where he broke Barry Sanders‘ total yardage record. McCaffrey will surely look to prove voters wrong with a strong performance on this big stage from the Rose Bowl. The second most important player for the Cardinal will be quarterback Kevin Hogan. Iowa will be looking to contain and key on the running game, so it could end up that Hogan may have to be the one to win the game for Stanford. Iowa has the No. 9 rush defense in the nation, so it truly could come down to Hogan.
With 2,644 passing yards and 24 touchdowns, Hogan has plenty of targets to look at in this one. Michael Rector, Austin Hooper and Devon Cajuste all join McCaffrey as receiving threats. On defense, Stanford has Blake Martinez as their leader as he racked up over 100 tackles this season. Martinez and the rest of the defense will look to be their usual tough and physical selves as they will need to be against the physical Hawkeye offense.
For Iowa, they are definitely a run-first offense that has a few contributors in the backfield to watch. Jordan Canzeri was their leading rusher during the season with 976 yards and 12 scores. LeShun Daniels Jr. and his 609 yards and eight scores joins him. Rounding out the trio is Akrum Wadley who tallied 463 yards and seven scores. The three will certainly look to set a tone for Iowa, but just like Stanford, it could come down to the quarterback. C.J. Beathard tossed for 2,570 yards and a 15-to-4 TD-to-INT ratio. He will have to be a threat and find success for Iowa to pull out the win. On defense, Iowa is led by star cornerback Desmond King, who had eight INTs during the season. He surely should be avoided as much as possible by Hogan.
Stanford is no stranger to the Rose Bowl, but they should be just as amped up as Iowa, which hasn’t been here since 1991. It was a great regular season for both teams, and they will look to finish off on the right foot. The key in this one should come down to which team could find the best success with their passing attack to complement their strong running games. Both defenses must do what they can do slow down those rushing attacks. In the end, Stanford has the best player on the field which should make all the difference in this one. McCaffrey will find any way he can to help Stanford smell the roses. This one is certainly a must-watch event.
Prediction: Stanford 23, Iowa 16