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The Hawkeyes will be looking to repeat the success they had at the 2017 Pinstripe Bowl when they face Mississippi State in the Outback Bowl. Hawk Central

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The Hawkeyes are no strangers to the Outback Bowl, as their Jan. 1 matchup against Mississippi State will mark appearance No. 6 in the Tampa-based game.

Iowa will look to reach .500 in Outback Bowls. The Hawkeyes knocked off Florida after the 2003 season and South Carolina after the 2008 season. Iowa lost to the Gators after the 2005 and 2016 seasons and LSU after the 2013 season.

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Given the extensive history, here are some facts and trends ahead of another Tampa trip.

Airing it out? Not so much.

Iowa’s quarterback play hasn’t been the smoothest in Raymond James Stadium. Drew Tate in the 2006 game is the only Hawkeye quarterback to throw for more than 200 yards in an Outback Bowl.

Here are how the passing stats stand (games listed in reverse chronological order):

  • C.J. Beathard (2017 game vs. Florida): 7-for-23, 55 yards, 3 INT
  • Jake Rudock (2014 game vs. LSU): 9-for-22, 102 yards, INT
  • Beathard (2014 game vs. LSU): 4-for-7, 55 yards, TD, INT
  • Ricky Stanzi (2009 game vs. South Carolina): 13-for-19, 147 yards, TD, 2 INT
  • Tate (2006 game vs. Florida): 32-for-55, 346 yards, 3 TD, INT     
  • Nathan Chandler (2004 game vs. Florida): 13-for-25, 170 yards, TD

It’ll be on Nate Stanley to buck this largely dismal trend. Of course, if Iowa emerges with a win — as Chandler and Stanzi delivered — the Hawkeyes won’t care much about the stats.  

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Solid — or really bad

There aren’t any in-between outings when it comes to the Hawkeyes’ rushing attack in the Outback Bowl. There have been three strong showings and two terrible ones.

First, the good.

Not much went right in Iowa’s last Tampa trek — a 30-3 loss to Florida two years ago — but the ground game had its moments. Akrum Wadley ran for 115 yards on 22 carries. Iowa as a team averaged more than four yards per touch. Similar success came against South Carolina, as Shonn Greene scampered for 121 yards and three touchdowns. Fred Russell (152 yards and a score) also ran all over the Gators in Iowa’s Outback Bowl debut.    

Now, the bad.

Mark Weisman and Jordan Canzeri found nothing against LSU, combining for 71 rushing yards on 25 carries. The Hawkeyes barley averaged two yards per touch. Much of the same occurred in the second Florida matchup. Running back Albert Young was nearly outrushed by Tate, 34-24.

Iowa’s 2018 running back committee has been hit-and-miss this year, but a decent finish provided encouragement. The Hawkeyes would like to see that momentum continue.

Lack of laundry

The Hawkeyes had done a great job of staying flag-free in Tampa. Iowa has had two or fewer penalties in four of its five Outback Bowls, including just three combined in the previous two.

The only outlier is six penalties against South Carolina for 50 yards, which still isn’t a terrible rate. By comparison, the Gamecocks racked up 10 penalties for 100 yards in that game.

Coughing it up

Turnovers have been a problem in recent games, though. Iowa has nine turnovers over its last three Outback Bowls (three in each).

Some have been costlier than others. Chauncey Gardner’s 58-yard pick-six in the last Florida matchup stuck Iowa in a 24-3 hole early in the fourth quarter, erasing any chance of a comeback. Beathard also tossed a late-game interception against LSU.

But Iowa’s three turnovers versus South Carolina hardly mattered. That’s because the Gamecocks coughed it up five times.

Quick strikes

Big plays have hurt the Hawkeyes throughout. In four of its five Outback Bowls, Iowa has surrendered a scoring play of at least 37 yards.

Mark Thompson’s 85-yard touchdown reception from Austin Appleby gave Florida a late first-half score in the last matchup. Jeremy Hill’s 37-yard TD run handed LSU a 20-7 lead early in the fourth. Florida quarterback Chris Leak burned Iowa for a 70-yard score in the first meeting and a 38-yard hookup with Dallas Baker in the second.

Mississippi State’s offense isn’t the most imposing, so Iowa should have an easier time stopping a potential home-run scoring threat. But if it doesn’t the Hawkeyes could be staring at 2-4 all-time in Tampa.    

Dargan Southard covers Iowa and UNI athletics, recruiting and preps for the Des Moines Register, HawkCentral.com and the Iowa City Press-Citizen. Email him at msouthard@gannett.com or follow him on Twitter at @Dargan_Southard.

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