On New Year’s Day 2016, the #5 and #6 ranked teams in the country will face off in “The Granddaddy of Them All” in Pasadena, California. The Rose Bowl is called “The Granddaddy of Them All” because it is the oldest bowl game, beginning iin 1902. The teams in the 2016 Rose Bowl are the Iowa Hawkeyes and the Stanford Cardinal. The game will start at 5 P.M. ET and will air on ESPN. The Hawkeyes enter the game with a record of 12-1, while Stanford with an 11-2 record. Both teams will look to rely on their solid defenses and their running games that have gotten them there. In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the two teams, the key players for both teams, and my prediction for the game.
First, we’ll look at Stanford. Their only losses on the season came at Northwestern to start the season, and then against Oregon in a 38-36 loss at home. Stanford has had solid all around play this season. Their offense puts up an average of 37 points per game. They have a very balanced offensive attack. They have averaged 210 passing yards and 225 rushing yards per game this season. The defense gives up 374 yards and 23 points for an average on the season. The defensive numbers may not be anything special, but with their high power offense, lead by Christian McCaffrey, the defense hasn’t had to shut down their opponents.
Without a doubt, Stanford would not be in this game without Christian McCaffrey. The AP Player of the Year has literally done it all for the Cardinal this year. He rushed for 1,847 yards with 8 TDs. He also returned punts and kickoffs for the Cardinal this season. Wait, that’s not all, he was also the team’s leading receiver. He caught 41 passes for 540 yards with 4 TDs. Amazingly, he also had three passing attempts, and 2 of those were for touchdowns. Stanford also has senior quarterback Kevin Hogan, who has thrown for 2,644 yards and 24 TDs. If Stanford wants to leave Pasadena with the Rose Bowl trophy, they will need big contributions from these two players.
Now, lets take a look at the Hawkeyes. Even though they are the higher ranked team, the Hawkeyes are the underdog in this game. The Hawkeyes only loss came in the Big 10 Championship game to Michigan State. It was a heartbreaking 16-13 loss. The Hawkeyes are a solid team. They don’t have one exceptional aspect to their game, but they don’t really have any major weaknesses. The major reason the Hawkeyes had an undefeated regular season is the fact that they don’t beat themselves. When the Hawkeyes entered the Big 10 Championship Game, they had a plus 14 turnover margin, which was 4th best in the nation.
The Iowa offense is lead by junior quarterback C.J. Beathard. Beathard threw for 2,570 yards with 15 TDs. He also only threw 4 interceptions, which was a big part in the turnover margin. The Hawkeyes have always been a run first team. This season they had many injuries at the running back position, but there always was another player ready to step up. The Hawkeyes starting back at the start of the season, LeShun Daniels Jr., was plagued with injuries all season. This lead to Jordan Canzeri and Akrum Wadley to have their chance. Both backs stepped up when their number was called and helped Beathard lead the Hawkeyes to the Big Ten West title.
Even though Stanford is the favorite in this game, my pick is the Iowa Hawkeyes. This is their first Rose Bowl appearance since 1991. Hawkeyes fans are very excited for this game, since their team hasn’t been here in 25 years. The Hawkeyes fans put in more than 50,000 requests for tickets to the game. Both teams are only allotted 22,000 tickets each. Rose Bowl tickets are higher in demand and price than the College Football Playoff game tickets. I feel the Hawkeyes fans creating an almost home field advantage, along with a month of preparation will lead them to victory. Their defense will find a way to contain Christian McCaffrey. Iowa wins in a dogfight 23-17. This would be the Hawkeyes first Rose Bowl win since 1959.
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Spark Sports Analyst