One team has been there three of the last four years. The other is returning for the first time in a quarter century. Sure Stanford has been there a lot lately and is favored to take home the roses, but I'll take the Hawks.

There's something I really like going into this game. Iowa will give Stanford their hardest-hitting game since the season opener against Northwestern. A game the Cardinal lost 16-6. Last weekend's Foster Farms Bowl was a Big Ten-Pac 12 matchup featuring hard-hitting and power football as Nebraska totally dominated UCLA in the second half. Stanford believes they too play power football and are hard-hitting. Friday afternoon, we find out which team can bring more of it. I'll take the Hawks.

Stanford is not just AP Player of the Year Christian McCaffery. He's a lot of it, though. He'll touch the ball, a ton. McCaffery had more than 1,000 yards returning kickoffs this season, but that's only the beginning. He caught 41 passes for an average of just over 13 yards per grab. He does the vast majority of his damage carrying the football. McCaffery ran for nearly 1,850 yards this season, averaging 5.8 yards per carry. However, he did most of his damage against PAC-12 opponents. He didn't rush for over 100 yards against any non-conference team. The Iowa defense gives up an average of 114.9 yards per game on the ground, good for 11th in the nation.

Here're McCaffery's stats in Stanford's three non-conference games:

  • Northwestern: 12 carries, 66 yards; the only game this year Stanford hasn't scored at least 30 points.
  • Central Florida: 20 carries, 58 yards
  • Notre Dame: 27 carries, 94 yards

The other key for Iowa is containing Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan. He's thrown 24 touchdown passes to just seven interceptions. Perhaps more impressive is his completion percentage is 68.6 percent. Hogan's total yardage through the air... 2,644 yards.

On the offensive side of the ball for Iowa, how healthy is Jordan Canzeri? Iowa's inability to run between the tackles against Michigan State was huge. After Canzeri went down, Iowa's running game was non-existent. LeShun Daniels and Akrum Wadley were neither able to run up the middle against Michigan State. If Canzeri can stay on the field and can push off his sore ankle to provide the necessary explosiveness, that will be huge. If not, Daniels has to show off his power up the middle and Iowa will have to run Wadley to the edge, where he excels. Stanford's rush defense is 40th in the nation, allowing 146.9 yards per game.

Stanford has given up 227 yards per game through the air. Iowa's only thrown for an average of 201 yards per game, but I wouldn't surprised at all if Iowa puts the ball in the air right away. Beathard has thrown for 2570 yards on the season with a 61+% completion rate and 15 touchdowns to just four interceptions.

Both teams have scored a lot of points this season. Iowa will need to keep McCaffery in check and force turnovers. It may require at least two to pull the upset. Through the first 13 games of the season, one thing is clear. Iowa finds a way. I'll take the Hawks.

If you're not a believer, the video below should do the trick. Go Hawks!

[via BTN,,, Sports Reference, ESPN, NCAA]