Georgia Tech facing Iowa may be the least attractive matchup of the BCS games, but the Orange Bowl could end up being the most intriguing one.
In what appears to be a classic case of a high-powered offense versus a stingy defense, the ninth-ranked Yellow Jackets will try to run their way past the No. 10 Hawkeyes when the teams meet Tuesday night in Miami.
In its second season under coach Paul Johnson, Georgia Tech went 11-2 and beat Clemson 39-34 in the ACC championship game to win the crown for the first time since sharing it with Florida State in 1998. It was the Yellow Jackets' first outright ACC title since 1990.
Johnson's spread option offense has been the key to Georgia Tech's success, while coach Kirk Ferentz's Iowa team shut down its opponents en route to a 10-2 record.
"No question that Iowa's defense is stellar across the board and they've shown that time and time again," Orange Bowl media host Larry Gautier said. "Georgia Tech's offense is a very unique offense. Their strength is their flexbone, wishbone, whatever coach Johnson calls that. Iowa's defense with A.J. (Edds), with Pat (Angerer) and the defensive folks that you have ... it's going to be mano-a-mano at the end of the day."
The Yellow Jackets are 11th in the Football Bowl Subdivision in total offense and will be facing a Hawkeyes squad that is 11th in total defense.
Georgia Tech averages 442.7 yards with 307.2 of them coming on the ground, good for second in the nation. Iowa gives up 286.7 total yards per game, 122.0 rushing.
The Yellow Jackets are 11th in the country with 35.3 points per game while the Hawkeyes are 10th in scoring defense, allowing 15.5 a contest.
"I've seen them a couple of times on television. They've had tremendous success," Ferentz said. "Their statistics are extremely impressive and coach Johnson's done a wonderful job everywhere he's been with the unique attack. And in this day and age especially, it gives him a heck of an edge."
Senior linebackers Edds and Angerer, a finalist for the Bronco Nagurski Trophy given to the nation's top defensive player, will face the daunting task of slowing down Georgia Tech running back Jonathan Dwyer and quarterback Josh Nesbitt.
Dwyer ran for 1,346 yards and 14 touchdowns while Nesbitt rushed for 991 and 18 scores for the Yellow Jackets, second in the FBS with 46 rushing TDs. Nesbitt has attempted just 11.8 passes per game while throwing 10 touchdowns and four interceptions.
"Georgia Tech brings a great offense to the table, as far as stopping them with our defense," Edds told the Hawkeyes' official Web site. "We will have our hands full, they are a good team and deserve it obviously and they won the ACC, so it should be a great game."
The return of quarterback Ricky Stanzi and top running back Adam Robinson (775 yards) from injuries should help Iowa put points on the board in case this game becomes a high-scoring affair.
Stanzi led the Hawkeyes to a 9-0 start before leaving a 17-10 loss to Northwestern on Nov. 7 with an ankle injury that required surgery.
The junior missed the final two regular-season games -- a 27-24 overtime loss at Big Ten champion Ohio State and a 12-0 win over Minnesota -- but Ferentz expects Stanzi to be healthy for this game.
"He is doing absolutely fantastic," said Ferentz, recently named Big Ten coach of the year for the third time.
Stanzi's numbers aren't eye-popping, as he's thrown 15 touchdowns and 14 interceptions, and Iowa is 93rd in the nation in total offense with 330.8 yards per game.
Stanzi, though, showed he could lead the Hawkeyes when it counts, helping them notch a school-record four wins by three points or fewer.
"Their quarterback Stanzi will be back for this game, which will be a big help to them," Johnson said. "They have a good football team. They don't beat themselves and they're very well-coached. I think they've shown a lot of character in that they've come from behind in several games this year and did what they had to do to win.
"It will be a big challenge for us to get ready for Iowa."
Georgia Tech is playing in a BCS bowl for the first time and making its first major postseason appearance since 1967, when it also went to the Orange Bowl.
"We're going to approach the game the same way we have all season," said Johnson, who earned ACC coach of the year honors for the second straight season. "We have more exposure. More people are probably going to watch it than a regular-season game because you're the only one on. It's national TV and a BCS game, so you have a chance to make a statement one way or another."
Iowa's only BCS appearance also was in the Orange Bowl in 2003, losing 38-17 to Southern California.
"The one thing all of us learned at an early age is it's a lot more fun if you play well and look representative," Ferentz said. "You want to look like you did during the season. Unfortunately we didn't do that the last time we were in Miami, and it's a bitter pill to swallow.
"We're thrilled to be returning to Miami. And also, we realize it's going to be a great, great challenge."
These teams have never met.
AccuScore has powered more than 10,000 simulations for every College Football game on ESPN.com, calculating how each team's performance changes in response to game conditions and opponent's abilities. Each game is simulated and the game is replayed a minimum of 10,000 times to generate forecasted winning percentages.
Georgia Tech's spread option offense has seemed unstoppable this season, especially to teams that are unfamiliar with it, but Iowa has an advantage in that it's strong in the defensive interior, which is key to stopping the triple option. Iowa has mastered the art of winning ugly, though, and just completed its fourth season with at least 10 wins under Kirk Ferentz.