VRBO Citrus Bowl: No. 15 Iowa Hawkeyes vs No. 22 Kentucky Wildcats Match Preview

VRBO Citrus Bowl: No. 15 Iowa Hawkeyes vs No. 22 Kentucky Wildcats Match Preview

Barry Devoe
2 years ago
2 min read
VRBO Citrus Bowl No. 15 Iowa Hawkeyes vs No. 22 Kentucky Wildcats Match Preview

The 2021 VRBO Citrus Bowl presents the No. 15 Iowa Hawkeyes, representing the Big Ten, against the No. 22 Kentucky Wildcats of the Southeastern Conference.

Iowa ranked as high as second in the nation this season, while Kentucky has been a surprising but impressive story in the SEC the past couple of seasons.

With each bringing contrasting styles into their postseason matchup, the Citrus Bowl is sure to provide an interesting watch.

The Breakdown

This will be the first meeting between Iowa Hawkeyes and Kentucky Wildcats in the history of their programs, and what a stage to mark their inaugural showdown.

As is the case with the majority of the bowl games going on this year, there will be absences of certain players due to NFL futures or the transfer portal, but the skeleton of both squads remains largely intact for both Iowa and Kentucky.

The Hawkeyes went 10-3 this season and were 3-1 against top-25 teams, most notably defeating No. 4 Penn State 23-20. They play a slower tempo and would prefer to be in a low-scoring affair, though they have scored as many as 51 points in a game (against Maryland) this season.

Spencer Petras’ 1,669 passing yards, nine touchdowns, and six interceptions are all the high marks on the team while running back Tyler Goodson boasts 1,151 yards and six scores.

Iowa’s defense has allowed 18.1 points per game but was recently demolished by No. 2 Michigan 42-3. They have an elite secondary that forces turnovers and stout-run defense, but they are not the most dynamic unit in America.

Kentucky, meanwhile, went 9-3 this season with a defining win over No. 10 Florida. All three of their losses came in quick successions, falling to three fellow SEC teams, and they finished their season on a three-game win streak.

The Wildcats have been an ascending program in recent times, and now, they are gaining national prominence for their explosive but consistent style.

QB Will Levis is the main playmaker with 2,593 passing yards and 32 total touchdowns on the season. They also have a bruiser of a running back in Chris Rodriguez Jr., who ran for 121 yards and a touchdown in his last game.

The Outlook

Iowa may have the better national ranking, but Kentucky has explosive capability that the Hawkeyes will struggle to deal with, and especially if push comes to shove. Iowa plays best when they are in front and can pound the rock while dominating the clock. It is unlikely that they will succeed in this, however, giving the edge to the Wildcats.

Typically, winners of bowl games are decided by a few key metrics: penalties, big-play ability, and discipline. Whichever team can execute their game plan better will give themself a real advantage, but assuming everything plays out relatively evenly, the smart money is on Kentucky.

The VRBO Citrus Bowl will kick off inside Camping World Stadium at 1:00 p.m. ET on New Year’s Day.

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