The No. 16 Gators (8-3) aim to avenge that loss and snap a
three-game skid in bowl games in Monday's rematch with No. 25 Iowa
Players say the atmosphere in practice and off the field this
week under first-year coach Urban Meyer is more focused and
Meyer has tightened the reins on players off the field, urging
them to view the game as a business trip, scolding those who have
talked with media about their NFL aspirations and drawing curfew
back nearly three hours from two years ago.
So it's no surprise that the Gators have changed their
"The guys are taking more pride in this game, take pride in
going out and working hard at practice and enjoying being around
each other," said safety Jarvis Herring. "So it will be a whole
different environment, a whole different game this year."
For the Hawkeyes, the postseason terrain and expectations are
familiar. Iowa is making its fourth straight appearance in a
January bowl -- a school record -- and has won the last two.
"We know what it takes to win these games," said Hawkeye Abdul
Hodge, who joins teammate Chad Greenway in one of the nation's best
Hodge said both teams have changed since their last bowl
"What happened in the past with Florida, you can't really put
too much emphasis on it. They've got a different coaching staff, a
lot of new players. They've also got a new attitude.
"So, taking that all into perspective, we're playing a whole
different team," Hodge said.
Some things remain the same, however.
The Hawkeyes and their young defensive line still have to figure
out a way to keep quarterback Chris Leak and the Gators' spread
offense in check.
Leak, who frustrates opponents with his knack for eluding the
rush, completed 63 percent of his passes and tossed 18 touchdowns
Florida's diverse offense gives Leak plenty of throwing options.
It confuses the defense and opens up a running game that averaged
145 yards, fourth best in the SEC.
"We believe in making the defense work from sideline to
sideline," said Meyer, who promised a few new offensive frills.
"This game is going to have a big impact on taking this program to
where it needs to be."
The Hawkeyes defense struggled early in the season in part
because of a youthful front line. After yielding 314 rushing yards
in a 31-6 loss at Ohio State, the front four turned things around.
Iowa closed its season with impressive victories at Wisconsin
and at home over Minnesota, two of the Big Ten's best running
teams. Led by Mitch King and Kenny Iwebema, the Hawkeyes held the
Badgers' tailback Brian Calhoun to 18 yards and allowed 129 yards
on the ground against the Gophers, 150 below Minnesota's season
"Those guys have really grown up front and that's obviously
made a huge difference for us," said Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz. "If
we're going to have a chance, we're going to have to play mentally
and physically tough."
The challenge for Iowa offensively will be protecting the ball
against a Gator team that is the nation's third best in taking it
Florida has a plus-18 turnover margin and has scored 102 points
off opponents' mistakes. The Gators have one of the nation's
stingiest defenses, allowing 289 yards per game and 98 on the