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Iowa defensive tackle Jaleel Johnson is one of three Hawkeyes preparing for Saturday's Senior Bowl along with cornerback Desmond King and quarterback C.J. Beathard.

Andy Abeyta, Quad-City Times

IOWA VS. FLORIDA

OUTBACK BOWL, NOON, RAYMOND JAMES STADIUM

TV: WQAD

RADIO: WOC 1420 AM

LINE: Florida by 2.5

SERIES: Florida 2-1

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH

The first quarter: Who is ready to go? Who wants to go home? The first quarter of bowl games often tells a story. The Hawkeyes have endured some painfully slow starts in recent bowl games, spotting its last two opponents a 21-0 lead after one quarter. Iowa, looking for its first bowl win since 2010, brings a three-game win streak into today’s game while Florida lost its last two, beaten by instate rival Florida State and top-ranked Alabama.

Punters' legs: In a game expected to be dominated by defense – Florida’s offense is rated 115th in the country and Iowa is 120th – the legs of punters Ron Coluzzi of Iowa and Johnny Townsend of Florida will be a factor. Coluzzi, who leads the Big Ten with touchbacks on 64.5 percent of his kickoffs, averages 41.2 yards per punt, has placed 22 of his 68 punts inside the 20 and has booted 13 50 yards of more. Townsend leads the country with an average of 48.05 yards, with 25 inside the 20 and 28 traveling 50 yards or more.

C.J. Beathard's arm: Florida’s defensive backfield led by NFL prospects Teez Tabor and Quincy Wilson, will test the precision of C.J. Beathard’s arm. Tabor and Wilson have combined for seven interceptions and 11 pass break ups while limiting opponents to a minuscule 46.4 pass completion percentage. Beathard has completed 58.6 percent of his passing while working with a young Iowa receiving corps this season. His play-action abilities loom large.

Florida's QB play: Austin Appleby will get the call behind center for the Gators but if the Florida offense struggles, the Purdue transfer could find himself watching Luke Del Rio take snaps. Both have started six games this season and Appleby will start against Iowa, but Del Rio, working his way back from shoulder and knee injuries, has practiced over the past week and will see the field if Appleby struggles. Both have had their share of turnovers, throwing eight picks apiece.

The battle in the trenches: Both Iowa and Florida have relatively young offensive lines that will attempt to deal with dominant veteran defensive tackles. The Hawkeyes must contend with the Gators’ extremely active front anchored by senior Joey Ivie and junior Caleb Brantley, while Florida’s front five will be dealing with Hawkeye seniors Jaleel Johnson and Faith Ekakitie. Ivie and Brantley have combined for 11 tackles for a loss, one fewer than Johnson and Ekakitie have collected.

— Steve Batterson

STATISTICAL LEADERS

IOWA (8-4)

PASSING;COMP;ATT;YDS;TD;INT

C.J. Beathard;163;278;1,874;17;7

RUSHING;NO;YDS;AVG;TD

LeShun Daniels;198;1,013;5.1;10

Akrum Wadley;146;976;6.6;10

Jerminic Smith;3;63;21.0;0

Toks Akinribade;16;33;2.1;0

RECEIVING;NO;YDS;AVG;TD

Riley McCarron;41;506;12.3;4

Akrum Wadley;32;294;9.2;3

Jerminic Smith;23;314;13.7;2

George Kittle;21;296;14.1;4

INTERCEPTIONS: Desmond King 2, Manny Rugamba 2, Brandon Snyder 2

SACKS: Jaleel Johnson 7.5, Anthony Nelson 5, Matt Nelson 5

TACKLES: Josey Jewell 114, Bo Bower 88, Brandon Snyder 80, Ben Niemann 66, Jaleel Johnson 54

PUNT RETURNS: Desmond King 25-245-9.8-0, Riley McCarron 7-148-21.1-1

KICKOFF RETURNS: Desmond King 25-680-27.2-0, Brady Ross 2-14-7.0-0

FLORIDA (8-4)

PASSING;COMP;ATT;YDS;TD;INT

Luke Del Rio;114;201;1,358;8;8

Austin Appleby;113;184;1,225;8;5

RUSHING;NO;YDS;AVG;TD

Jordan Scarlett;165;795;4.8;6

Lamical Perine;84;402;4.8;1

Mark Thompson;66;295;4.5;2

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Jordan Cronkite;31;145;4.7

RECEIVING;NO;YDS;AVG;TD

Antonio Callaway;47;666;14.2;3

Brandon Powell;4;372;8.7;2

DeAndre Goolsby;36;315;8.8;2

Jordan Cronkite;20;120;6.0;1

INTERCEPTIONS: Teez Tabor 4, Quincy Wilson 3, Marcell Harris 2

SACKS: Jabari Zuniga 5, Jordan Sherit 3.5, Alex Anzalone 3

TACKLES: Marcell Harris 64, Jarrad Davis 60, Alex Anzalone 53, Marcus Maye 50, David Reese 49

PUNT RETURNS: Antonio Callaway 24-177-7.4-0, Brandon Powell 5-23-4.6-0

KICKOFF RETURNS: Chris Thompson 13-283-21.8-0, Lamical Perine 4-86-21.5-0

MARQUEE MATCHUP

CALEB BRANTLEY VS. AKRUM WADLEY: The highly-regarded Florida defensive tackle has lived in opponents’ backfields at times this season, leading the Gators with 8.5 tackles for a loss. He’ll be a test for the Hawkeyes’ playmaking junior running back, who in addition to rushing for 966 yards has become Iowa’s second-leading receiver.

BY THE NUMBERS

17.9: Points allowed per game by the Gators, who rank 10th in the nation in scoring defense and are ranked in the top 10 in the Football Bowl Subdivision in five defensive statistical categories

34: Yards needed by Iowa running back Akrum Wadley to join LeShun Daniels in reaching the 1,000-yard rushing mark this season. The Hawkeyes have never had two 1,000-yard backs in a single season.

QUOTABLE

“You work all year to put yourself in a position to play in games like this. You want to go out and the end the season by putting your best on the field. You don’t want to walk away with any regrets.’’

— Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard

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