TAMPA (CBSMiami/SportsDirect) – The Florida Gators are looking to cap off an up-and-down season with a bowl victory on Monday.
Florida’s defense has struggled and will try to redeem itself after two disappointing performances when the Gators take on Iowa in the Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.
Florida allowed 14 or fewer points in eight of its first 10 games to earn a spot in the SEC Championship game before giving up 85 combined against rival Florida State and Alabama in the last two.
Gators defensive coordinator Geoff Collins was hired as the new coach at Temple last week and former Miami (Fla.) coach Randy Shannon will run the defense against Iowa.
Iowa recently won the Joe Moore Award, given to the nation’s most outstanding offensive line, and the Hawkeyes sealed it with impressive performances in consecutive victories over Michigan, Illinois and Nebraska to end the regular season.
Senior LeShun Daniels Jr. (1,013 yards, 10 touchdowns) and junior Akrum Wadley (966, 10) could become the first pair of Iowa running backs to go over 1,000 in the same season.
Iowa rushed for a total of 526 yards in the wins over Illinois and Nebraska after grinding out the upset win against Michigan with 98 on the ground.
This is the third time the programs meet in the Outback Bowl as Iowa took the 2004 contest 37-17 before the Gators fought back to win 31-24 in 2006.
Florida lost two of its last three bowl games after the 41-7 setback against Michigan in the 2015 Citrus Bowl and is 21-21 all-time.
The Hawkeyes play their fourth straight January bowl game and dropped four in a row overall after last season’s 45-16 defeat against Stanford in the Rose Bowl – falling to .500 all time at 14-14-1.
TV: 1 p.m. ET, ABC. LINE: Florida -3
ABOUT FLORIDA (8-4, 6-2 SEC): The Gators gave up 483 yards on the ground over the last two games to push their season average to 142.2 – 36th in the nation – and are still sixth overall in total defense (298.6) despite two rough outings.
Sophomore running back Jordan Scarlett (795 yards, six touchdowns on the ground) prospered with more carries in the middle of the season – totaling three 100-yard efforts in five games before being limited to 70 combined in the last two.
Senior transfer Austin Appleby took over at quarterback when Luke Del Rio was injured, completing 61.6 percent of his passes in the last four games, and sophomore Antonio Callaway is his most dangerous target (47 catches, 666 yards, three touchdowns).
ABOUT IOWA (8-4, 6-3 Big Ten): The Hawkeyes lost their top receiver (Matt VandeBerg) to a season-ending injury early on and coach Kirk Ferentz had to do a lot of mixing and matching on the offensive line.
Senior quarterback C.J. Beathard (17 touchdown passes, seven interceptions) threw for only 290 yards combined the last three weeks as the running attack took over with Daniels totaled 317 yards on the ground against Illinois and Nebraska while combining with Wadley for 20 rushing TDs overall.
The defense stepped up after a 41-14 loss at Penn State, allowing 23 total points in the last three games, and linebacker Josey Jewell (fourth team) along with defensive back Desmond King (second) were named All-Americans.
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