College Football

5 Things: Pinstripe Bowl, Iowa vs. Boston College

Hawkeyes and Eagles meet in a battle of the birds

Boston College head coach Steve Addazio and Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz pose with The George M. Steinbrenner III Championship Trophy at Yankees Stadium in New York City on  Dec. 26, 2017. (Manish Gosalia/Freelance)
Boston College head coach Steve Addazio and Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz pose with The George M. Steinbrenner III Championship Trophy at Yankees Stadium in New York City on Dec. 26, 2017. (Manish Gosalia/Freelance)

Bowl season is in full swing, and it’s Iowa’s turn on Wednesday to get into the fray in the Pinstripe Bowl. The Hawkeyes face off against the Boston College Eagles inside Yankee Stadium in one of three bowl games competed on a baseball field, making it the only battle of the birds but not quite as funny as Northwestern and Kentucky ensuring the Wildcats will be the winner.

With a unique matchup on the horizon, here’s 5 Things: Iowa vs. Boston College.

1. Oh yeah

This is the first matchup between Iowa and Boston College, and given the Eagles play in the ACC now and formerly the Big East, it’s fair to say most followers of Iowa haven’t given much thought to Boston College other than old highlights of Doug Flutie beating Miami with a Hail Mary.

But outside of Flutie and the most famous football alum in Matt Ryan, there are quite a few players who have made their mark on the NFL and probably are guys you’ve either rooted for or against — and just might make you say “oh yeah!” if someone told you they also went to Boston College.

Among current NFL players, the two best by far are two of the best at their position: Ryan, who guided the Atlanta Falcons to last year’s Super Bowl loss to the New England Patriots and Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly. Kuechly has ascended to become perhaps the best middle linebacker in the league. He played three seasons in Boston before going to the NFL, and amassed an eye-popping 532 total tackles in that span — with a high of 191 in 2011. (For reference, Josey Jewell’s career-high tackles was 126 in 2015. The difference there is a whole season for most linebackers.)

Some other notable “oh yeah, he went there” guys: former Packers defensive lineman B.J. Raji, whose interception of Caleb Hanie in the NFC Championship Game of the 2010 season sank the Bears and gave him a career highlight. Former Minnesota Vikings defensive lineman Chris Hovan played college ball at Boston College. Hovan isn’t a Hall of Famer, but did terrorize NFC North quarterbacks for several years. Longtime quarterback Matt Hasselbeck was an Eagle, as was crazy-eyed linebacker Bill Romanowski, who starred for the Raiders and Broncos. Lastly, there’s Mike Mayock, who you’ll probably hear break down Josey Jewell and (potentially) Josh Jackson in NFL Draft coverage.

2. Empire State of Mind

Iowa football has been around since 1888. There are 22 college football programs in the state of New York, at various levels, with just one Power 5 program in Syracuse. In the 129 seasons of Hawkeyes football, only two previous games have been played in the state of New York in advance of the third on Wednesday, and Iowa has only even played two programs from New York.

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The Hawkeyes have played Buffalo once, in a 56-7 drubbing of the Bulls in a 2003 matchup at Kinnick Stadium. Iowa is 3-1 all-time against the aforementioned Orange — a home-and-home in 1975 and 1976, and another in 2006 and 2007.

Iowa split the pair of games in Syracuse, N.Y., with the first in 1975 a 10-7 loss during a 3-8 Hawkeyes season. The other was the double-overtime affair with that goal line stand in the Carrier Dome in 2006, in which Albert Young rushed for 73 yards and a touchdown and quarterback Jason Manson started in place of injured Drew Tate, throwing for 202 yards, one touchdown and four interceptions.

3. Going streaking

OK, this is the not-so-fun thing in the bowl edition of 5 Things, but here we are.

The grumpy cloud hanging over this time of year for the Hawkeyes is the five-game bowl losing streak that currently exists, dating back to the 2011 Insight Bowl loss to Oklahoma and including two Outback Bowl losses and that trip to Pasadena, Calif. that put a Christian McCaffery-shaped mark on what still is an amazing season of Iowa football. It’s the longest streak of postseason losses in program history, and has seen the overall bowl record dip below .500 at 14-15-1.

But the Pinstripe Bowl matchup having a team suffer five-game bowl loss streaks isn’t limited to Iowa. Boston College broke one of its own last year in beating Maryland in the Quick Lane Bowl. Before that, between 2008 and 2014, the Eagles lost five straight bowls, including a Pinstripe Bowl loss in overtime to Penn State in 2014.

4. The Yankee Bowl

Speaking of that 2014 Pinstripe Bowl, Boston College played in the first installment of the bowl in its current affiliation agreement with the Big Ten and ACC after originally being a Big 12 vs. Big East matchup. That game set the attendance record for the now eight-year-old bowl game, with 49,012 in attendance.

The Eagles represent the third program to have played in the bowl twice, while Iowa obviously is making the trip for the first time. Boston College joins Syracuse and Rutgers as the two-time Pinstripe bowlers, both playing as members of the Big East. Syracuse won both of its trips, beating Kansas State and West Virginia, while Rutgers beat Iowa State in 2011 and lost to Notre Dame in 2013.

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The Big Ten is in Year 4 of an eight-year agreement with the Pinstripe Bowl, and has seen a different member of the conference play each year — a goal for both the conference and the bowl — so if you weren’t happy with Iowa’s trip there, you’re good for a while most likely.

5. Against the spread

Iowa’s last five bowl games have been matchups in which the Hawkeyes were bumped up to face a tougher opponent — save for the Rose Bowl — but the Pinstripe Bowl feels pretty equitable, and the line as it stood on Tuesday afternoon reflected that.

The Hawkeyes opened as a 3-point favorite, and the line was at Iowa by 2.5 as of Tuesday. The game itself opened with an over-under of 46.5, and dropped to 45 Tuesday, which also makes sense. Iowa’s offense hasn’t exactly been out-of-this-world, and the Weather Channel predicts the temperature at kickoff to be around 24 degrees and most likely a whipping wind.

Iowa is 5-6 against the spread this season and 1-4 away from Kinnick, while Boston College is 8-3 against the spread this season and 3-2 at home — which the Eagles effectively are in this game, given proximity. This should be a tight game, so Boston College covering likely means an outright win.

As always, never bet, kids.

l Comments: (319) 368-8884; jeremiah.davis@thegazette.com

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