Outback Bowl: LSU vs. Iowa

00:00 December 21, 2013

 The matchup isn’t sexy. LSU fans probably didn’t run up and down the halls of their house when they found out the Tigers would be playing Iowa in the Outback Bowl to kickoff the New Year. One LSU fan told me, “Watching Iowa is like watching corn grow.” But playing in a New Year’s Day bowl game shouldn’t be taken for granted. Sure, a trip to Shreveport would be much easier. But that’s not what you get when you’re a national brand like LSU and win 10 games almost every season. Don’t forget, there are worst places to be than Tampa, Florida in late December and early January.  
Iowa enters the Outback Bowl with an 8-4 record and a three game win streak. They sport a defense that allows less than 19 points a game and could present a stiff challenge to LSU quarterback Anthony Jennings who will make his first start at the college level. The Hawkeye defense is led by middle linebacker James Morris who racked up 98 tackles, 4 interceptions and five sacks. Fellow linebacker Anthony Hitchens leads the team with 102 tackles, two sacks and an interception. Offensively, Iowa hangs their hat on their ability to run the ball effectively. They average nearly 200 rushing yards a game. The ground attack is led by Mark Weisman who has 938 yards and seven touchdowns on the season. Sophomore quarterback Jake Rudock completed over 60% of his passes in 2013. He’s thrown for 2,281 yards and 18 touchdowns. Statistically, they are much more efficient on defense than they are on offense. Iowa will make their fourth Outback Bowl appearance since 2004 (2-1).
LSU finished the regular season 9-3 and will make their first Outback Bowl appearance since 1989 when it was called the Hall of Fame Bowl. The Tigers have been much better on offense this season under first-year offensive coordinator Cam Cameron. But they won’t have the guy who was the main catalyst, Zach Mettenberger. He’ll be replaced by freshman Anthony Jennings who led the Tigers on a 99-yard game-winning touchdown drive in his only significant action this season. It will be a tough act to follow. Having over a month to prepare could help the youngster out. He doesn’t have the arm strength that Mettenberger has but he has much more speed that could help extend plays and help receivers get open down the field. Also, running backs Jeremy Hill, Terrence Magee, Kenny Hilliard and Alfred Blue will take some pressure off Jennings’ shoulders. The Tiger rushing attack averages 200 yards a contest and has accounted for 30 touchdowns on the season. Defensively, LSU has been inconsistent all year long. To predict what they will do after a month off of game action is hard to do.
This game may not be the one that sticks out when you look at the list of bowl games. But last time these two teams played in a bowl game it was close, competitive and won on the last play of the game. This time around expect something similar. Prediction: LSU 28, Iowa 21.  

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