The New Year slate of games only gets better. As we have the Vrbo Citrus Bowl and this is an exciting matchup. We have the Big Ten going up against the SEC in this one. The matchup is between Iowa (10-3) and Kentucky (9-3). Two good defenses going head to head in this one for the Citrus Bowl crown. With that being said here is my preview for the Vrbo Citrus Bowl.
The Iowa Hawkeyes are coming off an embarrassing Big Ten Championship loss to the Michigan Wolverines. Iowa played their worst game of the year and they will look to try and finish the season on a good note. This Iowa team will be without their top running back as he prepares for the NFL Draft. So this team will need someone to step up and make some plays in key situations on offense. They are going to need a big game from quarterback Spencer Petras in this one. Petras threw for 1,669 passing yards to go along with 9 passing touchdowns and 6 interceptions. Without their starting running back, they are going to have to get creative offensively against a solid Kentucky defense.
Defensively, this Iowa defense is very solid. They give up 19.2 points per game, 113.8 rushing yards per game and 340.5 total yards of offense. Besides the Big Ten Championship, Iowa held opponents regularly to 24 points or under. They are also very good at getting opposing offenses off the field on third down as they only allow a first down conversion on third down 36.5 percent of the time. Iowa’s defense will need to be good at stopping this effective Kentucky running game.
This Kentucky offense was a fun one to watch in the SEC this past season. Penn State transfer Will Levis has been phenomenal for the Kentucky Wildcats. Levis has thrown for 2,593 passing yards to go along with 23 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. This Kentucky offense took a big step forward this year. They average 440.8 total yards of offense and they average 33.3 points per game. Levis has been good in the passing game, but it is what Chris Rodriguez and the running game that is why Kentucky is where they are this year. Rodriguez has 1,272 rushing yards on the season and adds 8 touchdowns. Kentucky will need Rodriguez to have one of his good games in order for Kentucky to win in this one.
Defensively this Kentucky team is good. They give up 117.8 rushing yards per game and allow only 22.1 points per game. Kentucky just needs to do what they do best on the defensive end and that is show up in key situations. If they win the key battles on the defensive end, then the game should easily go the way they would like it to.
Kentucky is a 3 point favorite with the over/under set at 44. My lean here is the over as I see both offenses doing enough to get this over to hit. However, the official play is Iowa +3. Iowa as an underdog wins games like this. Love the Hawkeyes in this matchup not only to cover, but to potentially win this bowl game outright.
-Chris Jones (@cjoneswho1212)
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