Hawkeyes to face No. 19 Oklahoma in 2011 Insight Bowl


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The Iowa football team will head to the Insight Bowl for the second-straight season, but there should still be plenty of intrigue surrounding its matchup.

The Hawkeyes (7-5, 4-4 Big Ten) will meet No. 19 Oklahoma (9-3, 6-3 Big 12) at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Ariz., on Dec. 30 at 9 p.m. on ESPN.

Iowa knocked off then-No. 12 Missouri in last year's Insight Bowl, 27-24, earning a third-consecutive bowl victory for the first time in school history.

Iowa Athletics Director Gary Barta said he had conversations with Insight Bowl representatives as recently as Dec. 3 at the Big Ten championship game, but he heard nothing definitive until the phone call he received Sunday afternoon.

Barta cited Iowa's strong fan showing and the TV rating of last year's game as reasons the Insight Bowl invited the Hawkeyes again.

"I think over the years what I've learned is, what bowls want is a matchup that's going to draw a good crowd and is going to do well in television ratings," Barta said. "We had not been in their bowl prior to last year at all … The combination of the two programs and their strong history — it made a lot of sense."

Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops — an Iowa safety from 1979-82 and assistant coach under Hayden Fry from 1983-87 — attended the 2010 Insight Bowl with his family, clad in Hawkeye gear.

Iowa interviewed Stoops for the opening created by Fry's retirement in late 1998. But Stoops said he had already received an offer from Oklahoma by the time he was done interviewing for the Iowa position. He has since led the Sooners to nine 10-plus win seasons, including a national championship in 2000.

"To be quite honest, I was at Iowa for 10 years, and I loved it. I still love it … It was like I've been there, done that," Stoops said during a teleconference Sunday. "This [Oklahoma] is something new, exciting, and let's face it — a great tradition, too. I thought this is what I need to do."

Stoops' playing and coaching career at Iowa overlapped with some of Ferentz's tenure as an offensive line coach under Fry (1981-89). The two remain close friends.

"I've had tremendous respect for him on all levels," Ferentz said. "He does a great, great job, he and his coaching staff."

The Sooners were ranked No. 1 in both the AP and Coaches' preseason polls. They started 6-0 before falling to Texas Tech, 41-38, on Oct. 22. Stoops' team also dropped two of its last three, falling at Baylor and Oklahoma State on Nov. 19 and Dec. 3, respectively.

Iowa State was the two teams' lone common opponent. Oklahoma defeated Iowa State in Norman, Okla., 26-6, on Nov. 26, and the Cyclones outlasted the Hawkeyes in triple-overtime, 44-41, on Sept. 10 in Ames.

Iowa's defense will face one of its biggest challenges of the season as Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones anchors the nation's fourth-best passing attack, which averages 365.1 yards per game. The Sooners' average of 40.3 points per game is also the No. 10 mark in the country.

But Jones won't be the first elite Big 12 quarterback Iowa has played in recent bowl memory. Eventual first-round NFL draft pick Blaine Gabbert went 41-of-57 for 434 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions for Missouri against Iowa last season.

"We have a very tough draw, a great challenge on our hands," Ferentz said. "We're playing another great team from the Big 12 conference. Like last year, this team's very, very talented. Like last year, they've got an outstanding quarterback, who I would assume is a first-rounder for sure.

"We have a lot of work on our hands. … To get a fourth [straight bowl win] is going to be quite a challenge. We'll start that work here at the end of the week."

Follow DI Pregame Editor Jordan Garretson on Twitter.

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