The No. 17 Florida Gators will take on the Iowa Hawkeyes in the Outback Bowl. The game is scheduled for Monday, January 2nd. Kickoff is set for 1:00 EST at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. Oddsmakers have the Gators as a 3-point favorite with the total set at 40.5 points.

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Outback Bowl Vegas Odds Preview: Florida vs Iowa

The Gators (8-4) won the SEC East for a second straight year with a 6-2 conference record. Florida once again faced Alabama in the SEC Championship Game. It didn’t go well for the Gators, who got destroyed 54-16. Last year Florida followed up their SEC title game loss with a 7-41 defeat to Michigan in the Citrus Bowl.

The Hawkeyes (8-4) couldn’t regain the magic from last year’s perfect regular season. Iowa did managed to finish T-2nd in the Big Ten West at 6-3. It was a similar story for the Hawkeyes in last year’s bowl season. After losing in the Big Ten title game to Michigan State, Iowa was crushed 45-16 by Stanford in the Rose Bowl.

Outback Bowl Free Pick & Betting Predictions: Iowa +3

I like the value here with Iowa, who I trust a lot more to show up in this game. Bouncing back from a loss in a conference championship game is really hard to do. That’s not the only factor here that has me concerned with the Gators being motivated.

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Sometimes playing close to home can be an advantage in bowl season. This will be in Florida’s backyard. Tampa is just a little over a 2-hour drive from Gainesville. I just don’t think it works in the Gators favor here. Part of the excitement with bowl season is getting to travel. On the flip side of this, Iowa is a team that has a strong fan base that will show up in big numbers.

Florida is also a team that has had a ridiculous amount of players who dealing with injuries. They have 5 players out for the season and another 17 players listed as questionable. It’s hard to take advantage of all the extra practice time with that many players sidelined.

Another key factor here is the Gators lost defensive coordinator Geoff Collins to Temple. While some coordinators stick around until after the bowl, Collins is not with the team. Randy Shannons will take over. Given how much Florida relies on their defense, this is a huge loss that’s getting overlooked.

Iowa has already beat a team very similar to Florida in Michigan, who is a better version of the Gators. Speaking of that win over the Wolverines. That was a major turning point for the Hawkeyes. The followed that up with a 28-0 win at Illinois and 40-10 win over rival Nebraska. Not only are they riding a wave of momentum, this game means a lot.

That awful showing against Stanford last year will serve as a huge motivator for this Iowa team. A lot of the players who were part of that game are back this year. The Hawkeyes also haven’t won a bowl game since the 2010 Insight Bowl.

The other big thing here is that this Iowa defense should be able to keep Florida’s offense in check. The Gators have got some of the worst QB play in the country. The Hawkeyes finished 24th in the country in total defense (352.9 ypg). It’s also a unit that was playing it’s best at the end of the year. They allowed a mere 23 points over their last 3 games combined.

Hawkeyes are 24-9 ATS in their last 33 after allowing 125 or less rushing yards in 3 straight games. They are also 7-0 ATS in their last 7 road games off a SU win. Florida on the other hand is 1-9 ATS in their last 10 after scoring 17 or less in 2 straight games.