Both the Iowa Hawkeyes and Missouri Tigers started the season 7-2 with an outside shot at a BCS bowl berth. But in the final three games of the season, these two schools went in completely opposite directions. Mizzou finished 10-2, sweeping Kansas State, Iowa State, and Kansas to finish 6-2 in the Big 12. Iowa lost three in a row to finish 7-5, with losses to Northwestern, Ohio State, and Minnesota.
Both teams are led by accomplished quarterbacks, starting with Ricky Stanzi of Iowa. Stanzi completed 65% of his pass attempts for 2804 yards. The most telling statistic: he threw 25 touchdowns to four interceptions. Stanzi is a composed passer who has the experience and mettle to lead his team to victory.
Mizzou's quarterback, Blaine Gabbert, has taken a step down in productivity from 2009 to 2010. His best receiver, Danario Alexander, went to the St. Louis Rams after the 2009 season, taking his 1,781 yards and 14 touchdowns with him. Gabbert immediately found a rapport with T.J. Moe, a stocky sophomore wideout who was named 2nd-Team All-Big 12 at the end of the regular season.
Moe picked up 893 yards on 77 receptions, racking up six touchdowns in the process. The Tigers lack a clear-cut #1 running back, but utilize a "back by committee" approach, employing De'Vion Moore, Henry Josey, and Kendial Lawrence in limited roles. Gabbert is also a mobile quarterback, picking up 329 yards on the season.
This battle will come down to the defenses, as it so often does. Missouri is led on defense by Andrew Gachkar and Zaviar Gooden, a pair of linebackers that have combined for 160 tackles on the season. These guys are tackle machines and will play an important role in stopping Adam Robinson and the potent Iowa rushing attack.
Iowa is led by Jeremiha Hunter and Micah Hide on defense, but statistically speaking, the Tigers have a much better defense. Mizzou has 82 tackles for losses, while Iowa only has 51. Missouri has 38 sacks, Iowa only 20. Missouri forced 15 fumbles in 2010, Iowa only caused 6. These statistics don't lie, and it's clear as to why the Tigers are 10-2 and the Hawkeyes are only 7-5.
In the end, Ricky Stanzi will have to turn in an MVP-caliber performance to guide his team to victory against this savvy, solid Mizzou team. But after watching him lead his team to victory in the Orange Bowl last season, anything is possible for the senior gunslinger. But remember: Missouri had the ninth-toughest schedule in the FBS this season, yet still went 10-2. They are not a flash in the pan.