The Florida Gators had high aspirations going into the later part of the season. They started the year ranked No. 25 in the AP Poll. But after a 45-7 win against Kentucky and a 32-0 pounding against North Texas, they moved to No. 19. However, starting quarterback Luke Del Rio exited the game with an injury, and the Gators had to play the next two games without him. After a 31-10 loss at Arkansas, Luke Del Rio was demoted, and Austin Appleby took over for the rest of the year. After a major hurricane forced UF to cancel their home game against LSU, they moved the game to Baton Rouge a few weeks later, where the Gators won, 16-10. The Gators got their way into the SEC Championship with a 6-2 conference record, but were defeated by Alabama, 54-16
Iowa was trying to follow up a dream season, but hopes at another top 10 finish were quickly derailed after losses to North Dakota State and Northwestern. Down the stretch, they faced a tough Big Ten schedule, with the straight losses to No. 10 Wisconsin and No. 12 Penn State. However, they pull out a tough 14-13 victory against No. 3 Michigan, and a commanding 40-10 win over No. 16 Nebraska. They come into this bowl game with a lot of momentum
Game Details: Jan, 2, 12:00 p.m. EST on ABC // Tampa, FL // Raymond James Stadium
Florida (8-4, 6-2)
#31 Jalen Tabor, Defensive Back
Has great versatility with where he can play. He lines up against wide receivers, slot receivers, and tight ends.Because of his athleticism, he can cover short, quick receivers, but because of his size, he can also cover larger receivers who rely on strength. The thing he needs to improve on the most is his tackling, especially with low tackles. In his first two years, he had 22 pass breakups. He will definitely be a first-rounder in 2017.
#20 Marcus Maye, Defensive Back*
Another great player in Florida’s secondary, Marcus Maye’s huge breakout season was in 2015. He had 2 interceptions, 4 forced fumbles, and 6 pass deflections. This season, in only 9 games, he had an interception and 5 pass deflections. He has great closing speed which allows him to make plays on the ball, and is a good hitter. However, his coverage is top-notch, and his interception rate would be higher if his assignments got targeted more.
Other players to watch: LB Jarrad Davis, DT Caleb Brantley, CB Quincy Wilson
Iowa (8-4, 6-3)
#14 Desmond King, Defensive Back
Has the ball skills and quickness to cover NFL receivers. He’s very physical at the line of scrimmage, making receivers work before they even begin their route. He also uses his aggression to finish on tackles. He doesn’t play that fluidly, but he utilizes his strength well. He also has great vision against run offenses. He closes in on runners like a linebacker or defensive ends, which is what helped him get 2.5 tackles for a loss this year. In his last two seasons, he combined for 10 interceptions. He’s could’ve possibly been a first-rounder last year, but opted to stay for his senior year. After another great performance, we’ll probably see him go early.
#16 C.J. Beathard, Quarterback
This quarterback can do pretty much everything with his arm. He throws bombs, short and easy passes, throws into tight spaces, and can throw on the run. Almost any passing situation you physically put him into, he can handle. He’s also great at running in general. He can run out of the pocket under pressure with ease, or he can do it on a designed QB run play. When under pressure, he keeps his cool. In 2015, his poise on third down helped get the Hawkeyes one of the best third down conversion rates in the nation. NFL scouts will love his late game confidence too. He just never seems scared and rarely makes mistakes
Other players to watch: DT Jaleel Johnson, OT Cole Cronston