CFB: Georgia Tech, Iowa set for Orange Bowl
By Erik Brady
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson and Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz posed beside the FedEx Orange Bowl trophy today, as custom demands.
A photographer asked each to grab an orange from the trophy’s glass bowl, filled to overflowing with Florida’s finest. They obliged and smiled playfully. Tomorrow, though, they’ll have their game faces on.
The rest of the country looks to the crystal football that goes to the winner of Thursday’s national championship game, but for No. 10 Georgia Tech and No. 11 Iowa there is little more important than a trophy filled with fruit.
“A win anywhere is good,” Ferentz said. “I’ve learned that. And a loss anywhere is painful. It’s about as simple as that.”
Both schools lost their most recent major bowl games — both, as it happens, at the Orange Bowl. Florida beat Georgia Tech 27-12 in the 1967 game; Southern California beat Iowa 38-17 in the 2003 game.
“The thing that was disappointing the last time we were here is the way we played was hardly representative of the kind of football team we had,” Ferentz said. “That’s hard to live with, you know.”
Johnson won coach of the year in the Atlantic Coast Conference and Ferentz in the Big Ten. Moreover, their respective conferences are each 3-3 this bowl season.
“Is this a tiebreaker?” Ferentz said. “Geez. Thanks for putting the pressure on us.”
He was laughing.
“Certainly we want to represent Georgia Tech and the ACC,” Johnson said. “I think any time you play (intersectional) games, especially bowl games, that you’re representing the conference as well.”
The Orange Bowl is billed as a showdown between Georgia Tech’s potent triple-option offense (second-best rushing offense at 307.2 yards a game) and Iowa’s vaunted defense (11th in total defense at 286.7 yards a game, including just 122 rushing yards a game).
That puts pressure on the Iowa offense to try to keep the Yellow Jackets off the field. “You better maximize every possession you get,” Ferentz said, “because you may not get too many.”
Iowa quarterback Ricky Stanzi returns from a sprained right ankle. The Hawkeyes began the season 9-0 with him but were 1-2 after, including the game in which he was hurt.
Stanzi “was tentative, like you’d expect,” in his first workouts after the injury, Ferentz said. “He was back trying to get his bearings straight a little bit. But the last couple of weeks he’s looked absolutely fine.”
Said Johnson, “I feel sure that he’ll be back full speed, and we figure he’s going to play a great game.”
Georgia Tech won the ACC championship. Iowa tied for second in the Big Ten.
“We were after it and came up a little short,” Ferentz said. “But, still, you don’t stumble your way into a game like this. We’ve got a good football team. We come in here confident but very, very respectful.”
Georgia Tech is 22-15 all-time in bowls, which is ninth-best for victories and 12th for appearances. Iowa is 12-10-1 in bowls. The schools have never met before in football.
Johnson said he can tell his players know game time is nigh.
“You see more guys in the hospitality room,” he said. “They’re not going places. You don’t know if they ran out of money or they’re just geared in for the game.”
Compiled by Eddie Timanus. Line by USA TODAY’s Danny Sheridan. Jeff Sagarin’s power ratings show the relative strength of teams.