Outback Bowl: Getting to know the Florida Gators

Five things Iowa football fans need to know about Florida, the Hawkeyes’ opponent in the Outback Bowl at noon on Jan. 2 in Tampa, Florida: Familiar foe

Florida’s quarterback in its most recent games is no stranger to Iowa.

Austin Appleby, a graduate transfer from Purdue who saw action against the Hawkeyes in each of his three seasons with the Boilermakers, has competed in eight games for the Gators this season.

Working behind a young offensive line which started two freshmen and two sophomores in the Southeastern Conference Championship Game last weekend in Atlanta, Appleby has completed 61.4 percent of his passes, throwing for eight touchdowns and 1,225 yards. He has been intercepted five times.

Against the Hawkeyes, the 6-foot-4, 240-pound Ohio native has completed 30-of-52 passes for 338 yards and two touchdowns. He was intercepted once by Iowa during a 2014 game which marked the first career start of Hawkeye quarterback C.J. Beathard.

The majority of Appleby’s work against Iowa came last season at Kinnick Stadium, where he replaced starter David Blough in the Hawkeyes’ 40-20 victory. Appleby came in and completed 23-of-40 passes for 259 yards and one score.

“When we found out (the Hawkeyes were the Gators’ bowl opponent) all the guys actually looked at Austin,’’ Florida coach Jim McElwain said. “He’s seen them. He’s the one that has to tell us what this is all about.’’

Appleby replaced Luke Del Rio in the Gators’ lineup this season. Del Rio played in six games but has been sidelined with a shoulder injury. His status for the bowl game remains undetermined. Ground game

The Gators are fairly balanced on offense, and not unlike Iowa, Florida has found moving the ball to be a chore at times this season.

Jordan Scarlett, a 5-foot-11, 213-pound sophomore, has been the team’s most effective rusher. Scarlett leads the Gators with 811 rushing yards and six touchdowns and his work is complemented by the abilities of Lamical Perine.

One of 14 true freshmen in the Football Bowl Subdivision to record multiple 100-yard rushing performances this season, the 5-11, 220-pound Perine topped the century mark twice in SEC play this season as part of an offense which hasn’t topped 20 points since a 24-10 win over Georgia on Oct. 29.

When Florida does pass, Antonio Callaway has been the Gators’ leading receiver this year. He has caught 47 balls for 666 yards and three touchdowns. Defensive difference

Much like Iowa, the calling card for Florida throughout its 8-4 season has been its defense.The Gators play a 4-3 front and have held eight opponents to 14 points or less while ranking sixth nationally in total defense and third in pass defense, offering the type of challenge the Hawkeyes faced in Big Ten play against Michigan and Wisconsin.Opponents average 156.3 passing yards per game against Florida, which is led in the secondary by the cornerback tandem of Teez Tabor and Quincy Wilson, a pair of juniors who have combined for seven interceptions on the season.Linebacker Jarrad Davis has collected 60 tackles and senior leads […]