Is Amari Spievey the X-Factor in Orange Bowl?

We're still three full weeks away from Iowa's date in Miami, which kinda sucks for everybody not named Ricky Stanzi or Dace Richardson. Nonetheless, we're already thinking obsessively about the game and all the potentially new and different matchups it creates.

Obviously, everyone's going to want to watch the Georgia Tech offense against the Iowa defense. GT's modern interpretation of the option has confounded basically everyone who's had to face it, and Iowa's vaunted defense has looked a little suspect at times against power running attacks. Then again, they bitchmade Arizona, so who knows.

Overall, the matchup isn't too bad for Iowa. This is probably the fastest defense Iowa has ever fielded, especially among the front seven. All three linebackers can fly, and Adrian Clayborn and Broderick Binns may be athletic enough to cause problems at the point of attack if . If Georgia Tech's going to bust big runs, it'll have to be with superior blocking; they won't be able to simply outrun the Hawkeye defense to the corner with any regularity.

Further, on that corner (Iowa's right, Georgia Tech's left, specifically) is one Amari Spievey. And how he factors into this game may end up determining who wins the game.

Spievey will likely be tested in pass coverage often. We haven't seen Spievey get "beaten" very much; usually, if someone completes a throw on him, it's a pass to the flat, and it ends with Amari putting his helmet through the player's femur and ending the play. But of the last three times we've seen a deep bomb work on the Iowa secondary, two--specifically Illinois 2008 and Penn State 2009--involved Spievey chasing ineffectually after a wideout who was about 10 yards in front of him on a fly route. Otherwise, he's such a lockdown corner that it doesn't even make sense to throw toward him.

The message, then, seems to be "If you want to beat Spievey, you have to beat him deep." Slight problem for Iowa: THAT'S THE ONLY ROUTE GEORGIA TECH RUNS.


Seriously: this is their entire passing offense. And it works.

So it'll be up to Norm Parker to get Brett Greenwood over to help as a centerfielder on those plays--last year, that would have been a scary proposition, but he's been just fine in that role this season.

On run plays, however, is where Amari Spievey will have the most impact. Amari is, basically, the most physical cornerback in the country; anyone who claims otherwise has never watched him play. He doesn't miss tackles (well, he might miss one or two against Jonathan Dwyer, but c'mon, that's totally unfair). Thus, against a team that runs outside the tackles most of the time, his ability to affect the run of play will be paramount.

We don't expect Spievey to be flying into the backfield on every play or anything, but it sure would be nice to see him blitz and throw the timing off of the option with a little regularity. Granted, it's not like he can run free at will all the time or anything; Georgia Tech has large, menacing receivers and swift offensive linemen who don't much cotton to Spievey's ill intents. But if he can get past his receiver's block (or bypass it entirely with a blitz from inside position), that one blocker who's now urgently re-assigned to stop #19 isn't blocking someone else on the defense, and that's how 2nd and 9 happens.

On the other hand, if Spievey spends his entire afternoon handfighting with Bey Bey Thomas or in a nine-yard "is this enough space for you to get a blocker on me?" cushion--or worse yet, lets a go route run him out of the play by never watching the backfield--well, it'll probably be a long game for the Hawkeyes and their fans.

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