Iowa to play Missouri in Insight Bowl


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Three-consecutive losses cost the Iowa Hawkeyes (7-5, 4-4 Big Ten) a chance at a return trip to another Bowl Championship Series matchup. But on Sunday evening, the Insight Bowl extended the program an invitation to play No. 14 Missouri (10-2, 6-2 Big 12).

The Insight Bowl — which kicks off at 9 p.m. CST on Dec. 28 in Tempe, Ariz. — spurned a potential matchup between Iowa and Nebraska, which would have jump-started the "Farmageddon" rivalry a year ahead of schedule.

Instead, the Hawkeyes will face the Tigers, who finished in a tie with Nebraska atop the Big 12 North.

Both the Outback Bowl and Gator Bowl passed over the Hawkeyes, choosing Penn State and Michigan, respectively. Iowa beat both of those teams in the regular season, and Athletics Director Gary Barta speculated the Hawkeyes' three-game losing streak probably contributed to that.

"I've heard everything, I guess," head coach Kirk Ferentz said of the speculation surrounding his team's bowl destination. "… It's just good now to know where we're going and who we're playing. And we're excited about both of those things."

Iowa will have an allotment of 11,000 tickets to sell. Pam Finke, the UI director of ticket operations, said the Hawkeyes sold 2,000 tickets before the team's destination was even known.

Citing the more than 5,000 UI alumni that live in the Phoenix area, Finke said she didn't expect any hitches in selling the remaining tickets, especially since most of Iowa's allotted seats are lower-level tickets.

The lower-level tickets are $74 each; $47 and $32 seats are also available.

"I walked from the stadium over to the [football] complex," Barta said. "Feeling that wind [Sunday] night, I think Phoenix feels pretty good right about now."

Missouri comes into the bowl riding a three-game winning streak. Its most impressive victory to date was a 36-27 home win over then-No. 1 Oklahoma on Oct. 23.

The Tigers' surprising 7-0 start was reminiscent of the Hawkeyes' run to start the 2009 campaign.

But much like Iowa a season ago, Missouri's title hopes were derailed by an untimely two-game losing streak.

The Tigers fell to Nebraska and Texas Tech, leaving them on the outside of a potential Big 12 title and BCS bowl game.

Gary Pinkel's team features the sixth-best scoring defense in the Football Bowl Subdivision, while also scoring more than 30 points per game. Statistically, Missouri is similar to Ohio State, which the Hawkeyes lost to, 20-17, on Nov. 20.

Much like the Buckeyes, the Tigers' defense is stingy, their offense is explosive, and their quarterback — 6-5 former five-star recruit Blaine Gabbert — is one of the best at his position.
Gabbert is fifth in the Big 12 with 229 passing yards per game.

"The opponent we're playing right now — if we're not ready to go, it could be out of control real fast," Ferentz said about the Tigers, who will be the seventh ranked team Iowa will play this season. "We better be ready to go at kickoff."

The bowl announcement came just over a week after the Hawkeyes' 27-24 loss to three-win Minnesota. It was the final straw in Iowa's late-season collapse that included the program's first three-game losing streak since Oct. 4, 2008.

Oddly enough, it was that drought six games into the 2008 season that seemed to propel the Hawkeyes to win 15 of their next 16 games — a stretch that spanned two seasons. And it's the same drought that drove Iowa to its first ever BCS victory — a 24-14 win over Georgia Tech in the 2010 Orange Bowl.

Now, Ferentz's team will use the 2010 Insight Bowl as an opportunity to start anew and try to rectify a season that fell apart all too quickly.

"It has been a tough month for us," Ferentz said. "Certainly, the next game is important to us — and it would have been anyway. To finish up like we did left a real bad taste in everyone's mouth. We're anxious to get back on the field and have a chance to compete again."

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