The first countdown that matters on this New Year’s Eve, the Hawkeye 10 @ 10, is on the job in Tampa, where the Outback Bowl kicks off at 11 a.m. on Tuesday.
Today, it’s all about Iowa and Mississippi State, a record-setting day for a former Hawkeye in the NFL and sunny skies.
Here is your daily dose of Iowa football news and notes, delivered weekdays in season at 10 a.m. at Hawkmania.com:
1. Among tight ends, T.J. Hockenson’s team-leading 46 receptions this season have been topped by Iowa tight ends on four previous occasions by three players.
Marv Cook owns the first and third spots on that list with 63 catches in 1988 and 49 in 1987. Alan Cross is second with 55 in 1992 and Scott Chandler sits in fourth with 47 receptions in 2005.
2. Iowa and Mississippi State rank second and third among programs in the power-five conferences in forcing turnovers.
The Hawkeyes have forced a turnovers on 22.06 percent of their opponents’ possessions this season while the Bulldogs have forced turnovers on 21.95 of their opponents’ drives.
Only Boston College, which has forced turnovers on 22.73 percent of its opponents’ possessions, has a higher percentage.
3. Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald enters Tuesday’s game having not thrown an interception in his last five games.
Iowa takes the field averaging two picks in each of its last eight games, now leading the nation for a second straight year with 18 interceptions.
The Hawkeyes have picked off 39 passes in the past two seasons, the most by any defense in the Football Bowl Subdivision. Alabama is second with 33 while Central Florida has 32.
4. Iowa and Mississippi State rank seventh and ninth nationally in defending the run, the bread and butter of both teams’ offense.
The Hawkeyes are giving up 102.4 yards per game on the ground, while the Bulldogs allow 104.3 yards.
Only Kentucky with 229 yards in a Sept. 22 game has rushed for more than 150 yards against Mississippi State this season.
5. Iowa’s defense has found its way to opposing quarterbacks with regularity.
The Hawkeyes have recorded 34 sacks this season, the second-best total in the Big Ten and the most for an Iowa team since matching that total in 2003.
A.J. Epenesa and Anthony Nelson share the Big Ten lead with 9.5 sacks apiece. That total ranks 13th nationally.
6. Match-ups against Big Ten teams have been rarities for Mississippi State.
Tuesday’s game is the first for the Bulldogs against a Big Ten team since losing 34-20 to Northwestern in the 2013 Gator Bowl. Mississippi State’s only other postseason match-up against a Big Ten team came in 2011 when it beat Michigan 52-14 in the Gator Bowl.
Iowa has faced SEC teams 10 times in its 31 bowl games including on eight occasions since 2003. The Hawkeyes are 5-5 in those games, most recently losing to Florida 30-3 in the 2016 Outback Bowl.
7. Iowa has been comfortable on the road this season.
The Hawkeyes have averaged 42.8 points in the five games they played away from Kinnick Stadium in 2018 and topped 40 points in each of their three road victories.
8. Former Hawkeye George Kittle capped off a record-setting season with the San Francisco 49ers by establishing an NFL record on Sunday.
Kittle caught nine passes for 149 yards and one touchdown for the 49ers in a 48-32 loss to the Rams.
For the season, the second-year pro established a new NFL receiving yards record for a tight end. Kittle finished the year with 88 catches for 1,377 yards and five touchdowns for San Francisco.
9. George Kittle wasn’t the only former Hawkeye finishing strong on the final weekend of the NFL regular season.
Anthony Hitchens continued to pile up tackles for the Chiefs, adding nine to his team-leading total with playoff-bound Kansas City.
Desmond King finished with six tackles and Josey Jewell had five and each recorded a tackle for a loss in a match-up between the Chargers and Broncos, Micah Hyde had four tackles and one tackle for a loss in the Bills’ win over on the Dolphins and Josh Jackson finished with a stop for the Packers.
10. The National Weather Service forecast for Tampa calls for partly sunny skies and a high of 80 degrees on Tuesday.
The kickoff temperature at Raymond James Stadium is expected to be around 75 degrees.