Florida Gators-Iowa: Three thoughts on the Outback Bowl
With the national title game coming to Tampa next month, I'm settling into College Football Playoff mode. In the spirit of not skimping on the other bowl games, here are three random thoughts about the Florida Gators' Jan. 2 showdown against Iowa in the Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium.
1. If you're looking for offensive optimism, watch the skill players. UF's starting quqarterback, Austin Appleby, won't be here next year, and I'm not expecting Luke Del Rio to be starting in Week 1 next year. The Gators don't plan to burn a redshirt on either freshman quarterback, Feleipe Franks or Kyle Trask, so we won't get a peek of their future there. But we'll see it everywhere else, like standout sophomores Antonio Callaway and Jordan Scarlett, or freshmen receivers Tyrie Cleveland and Josh Hammond. I think the young receivers will play even bigger roles in the bowl game, to prepare for 2017.
2. This might be the final game of Florida's dominant defense. It has to be, as I wrote earlier this month. The Gators have some promising young defensive talent. End CeCe Jefferson might be one of the SEC's top defensive players next year. Safety Marcell Harris played well down the stretch, and teammates have been talking up linebacker Vosean Joseph. But unless Caleb Brantley, Quincy Wilson and Jalen Tabor return for another season, I think next year's team will have a completely different identity from the one it has had since the Will Muschamp era. The Outback Bowl could be its finale.
3. Hope you like punting. Both teams have top-10 scoring defenses and offenses outside the top 75. That means one of the biggest factors in the game could be the Gators' Johnny Townsend. He led the nation in punting average (48 yards), and he can flip the field well. Given the fact that I think points will be hard to come by for both teams, are we talking about a punter as game MVP?