Tonights game will feature the #12 ranked Missouri Tigers against the unranked Iowa Hawkeyes. Even though the Hawkeyes are not ranked, they have a talent filled team. They definitely have the pieces to come out of this game with a win.
On the other side, Missouri has had a better season than what most people thought they were capable of. They finished the year out with a 10-2 record. Both teams represent strong conferences in a battle of the Big 12 versus the Big 10.
There will be several players in tonights match up that have the chance to shine at the next level. Strong defenses will face two talented young quarterback prospects in Ricky Stanzi for Iowa and Blaine Gabbert for Missouri.
Iowa will be without a few players and have faced their fair share of adversity and off-the-field issues this year. Feature running back Adam Robinson will not play due to not meeting academic requirements. Iowa still has a strong offensive line both in run and pass protection, so don't be surprised if freshman running back Marcus Coker plugs in for Robinson and has a decent game. Star receiver Marvin McNutt will still be a threat on the offensive side of the ball and Missouri should have a tough time matching up there as well.
Earlier this year, Missouri upset the then #1 ranked Oklahoma Sooners. Since then, it has been smooth sailing for the Tigers. After the win, they dropped games to #14 Nebraska as well as Texas Tech. After that, they cleaned up on the rest of their schedule including a win over #24 ranked Kansas State.
Tonights game should be very exciting, but if not, we should see plenty of pro-caliber talent.
Below, we will take a look at some of the key players in tonights game:
Here are the key players for each team;
IOWA HAWKEYES KEY-PLAYERS TO WATCH:
1. Ricky Stanzi - QB: Ricky Stanzi has not been the most consistent quarterback in the nation. He has definitely had his ups and downs. Stanzi reminds me of Alex Smith of the 49ers in a lot of ways. He can really look good at any given moment but complete trash in any given other moment. There is a ton of gray area as to whether or not Stanzi has what it takes to make it as an NFL quarterback. This game will dictate a bunch in terms of his draft status and where he will be selected. So it is sink or swim time for Stanzi this evening.
2. Adrian Clayborn - DE: Clayborn is a sure-fire 1st round draft pick. This evening he has a good shot at solidifying that. Many expect that Clayborn will dominate, but there is reason that Missouri has been able to come out victorious in some big games this year. Gabbert could struggle though if Clayborn is not slowed down. There is simply no way to stop him, but if they can slow him down, Missou has a shot.
3. Riley Reiff - OT: We saw Reiff have a terrific game last year in the Orange Bowl. His presence was seen on nearly every single offensive play last year. He helped neutralize now pro Derrick Morgan as he lined up against both him and Brian Bulaga. Reiff could be a huge corner stone in helping to stop Missouri's lethal pass rush.
4. Tyler Sash - S: This young talent resembles the late-great Pat Tillman. He does not posses the speed that some may want in a safety, but his understanding of the game makes up for it tremendously. Sash will have help back there from Brett Greenwood which also deserves mention in this game. The Hawkeyes have one of the better secondaries in the nation which is a big piece of the puzzle as to why they are ranked 7th in the nation in points given up with 16.7.
5. Micah Hyde - CB: Hyde is tall for a corner at 6'2". He has adequate speed and the ability to jump passes to pick them off or deflect them. He has a great opportunity tonight to make his name more prominent in the eyes of the draft guru's. He had 76 tackles, 1 fumble forced, and 3 interceptions this year. Kepp an eye on this kid Niners fans.
# 12 MISSOURI TIGERS KEY-PLAYERS TO WATCH:
1. Blaine Gabbert - QB: Some draft sites and national pundits alike have Gabbert ranked high and low. He is one of those players that will wind up being a back up in the NFL. But Gabbert is sharp as a machete and could pick the game up at the next level rather fast if he is placed behind one of the top NFL QB's. We could potentially, one day, see Gabbert starting in the NFL; though it will not, and should not be immediately.
2. De'Vion Moore - RB: Moore is the leading rusher on the team and will lead the ground attack this evening. He may not be considered to be among the top backs in the nation, but he will most likely present a hand full for the Iowa defense.
3. Henry Josey - RB: This freshman will certainly make his imprint on tonights game. He is definitely worth keeping an eye on because in a year or two, we will be talking about this back as one of the best in the nation.
4. T.J. Moe - WR: #28 has been the go-to guy all year for Blaine Gabbert. These two should connect on more than an occasion in this game. Moe is very sure-handed and also has big play ability.
5. Jerrell Harrison - S: The Tiger secondary is one of the most versatile in the nation. The can present a lot of different looks. Harrison has been the leader back there for the duration of the 2010 season. He is 6'2", 217 LBS and has 1 interception for 27 yards as well as 64 tackles on the year.
Summary - I believe that although Iowa does not have everyone suiting up in this game, they are in fact the favorites to come out with a victory. That being said, teams who have under-estimated Mizzou have not done well against them. This game will come down to who wants it more, but I fully expect it to go deep in to the 4th quarter and keep both sets of fans on the edge of their seats.
Coverage: ESPN/ ESPN3