Iowa, Mississippi St. meet in Outback

IOWA CITY — The University of Iowa has accepted an invitation to play Mississippi State in the 2019 Outback Bowl in Tampa, Fla., on Jan. 1 at 11 a.m.

“Our football team, coaches, and staff are excited to be invited to the 2019 Outback Bowl,” Hawkeye head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “We know we will enjoy outstanding hospitality, and we know we will face a quality opponent from the SEC. This is a great reward for how hard our players have worked and the success they have enjoyed this season.”

Iowa is making its 32nd bowl game appearance and its sixth showing at the Outback Bowl. The Hawkeyes have a 15-15-1 record in its previous 31 bowl games, including a 2-3 mark at the Outback Bowl.

The last time Iowa won in Tampa was in the 2009 Outback Bowl, when it beat South Carolina 31-10. The Hawkeyes’ last result in the Outback Bowl was a 2017 30-3 loss to Florida.

Ferentz said he’s not worried about his team being burnt out by playing in the same bowl game too often.

“We know, at least a lot of the guys on the coaching staff know firsthand, and a lot of our older players know what a great experience it is,” he said. “So it’s nice to go somewhere knowing that we’re going to have a tremendous opportunity to have a good experience outside of the football part of things, and then the football is a given. Anytime we’ve played there, we’ve played a really good opponent, and this will be another one of those matchups.”

In 25 games against SEC opponents, the Hawkeyes are 11-14 overall. Ferentz said getting an opportunity to face foes from such a strong conference help his team grow.

“Most of them have good players. I think that’s the conference, when you think about the SEC, you think about the talent they have had,” he said. “Again, you track this stuff to the NFL Draft, where players come from. They have pretty much led the country, I think that’s fair to say, for a while.

“It’s going to be a challenge. I don’t know anything about their personnel. I have a feeling they are probably pretty good and pretty salty,” Ferentz said of the Bulldogs. “But we’ve got a month to get ready. We’re excited and we have a good football team, too. We’re excited. Hopefully will be a good game if we do our part.”

While Ferentz and the Hawkeyes don’t have too much familiarity with Mississippi State, they do know their head coach Joe Moorhead, who formerly coached at Big Ten West Division rival Penn State under James Franklin.

“There is some familiarity obviously with their head coach, his background at Penn State, and the defensive coordinator was at Penn State originally, too, with Coach Franklin, so there is some familiarity there,” Ferentz said. “I do know they have had an outstanding season and they are outstanding on defense. You can just look at statistics and see that right off the bat, but we’ll learn more about them as we go along. We know we have got a big challenge and we’ll go from there.”

Two weeks until the end of the season the Hawkeyes were 6-4 and needed a strong finish to earn a good bowl win, and Iowa was able to do just that with dominant showings against Illinois and Nebraska to end the year. Ferentz said getting to make another trip to a high-level bowl is a good cap to his team’s season.

“Mostly I’m just really happy for our seniors. These guys have been a tremendous group,” Ferentz said. “I’m very appreciative of their contributions throughout the entire season, and obviously their entire careers and mostly for the leadership that they provide our team this year.

“We’re really proud of our football team this year. They competed hard, prepared well for 12 weeks and we came up short in a couple games, but just really proud of their effort.”