Freshman QB leads LSU into Outback against Iowa

No. 14 Louisiana State has no qualms about Anthony Jennings

making his first college start against Iowa in the Outback

Bowl.

The true freshman quarterback came off the bench to lead a

99-yard drive in the closing minutes of the Tigers’ regular season

finale to beat Arkansas, so LSU coach Les Miles feels his offense

will be in good hands against the Hawkeyes on Wednesday.

Miles believes poise is one of Jennings’ strongest assets, which

is one of the reasons LSU didn’t blink when senior Zach

Mettenberger, who’s thrown for nearly 5,800 yards in his career,

injured his knee with his team trailing 27-24 and seemingly running

out of time against Arkansas.

”The confidence of the team when he went under center really

didn’t change a lick. They kind of knew what to expect,” Miles

said. ”Again, we expect him to play well.”

Jennings has appeared in eight games, but had only thrown three

passes before Mettenberger went down with a knee injury that will

keep him out of the Outback Bowl. The 19-year-old from Marietta,

Ga., was 4 of 7 for 76 yards against Arkansas, including a 49-yard

TD throw to finish the eight-play drive that gave the Tigers their

ninth victory.

A win Wednesday would give LSU (9-3) a school-record four

consecutive seasons with at least 10 victories.

Iowa (8-4) is third in the Big Ten, seventh nationally, in total

defense, but Hawkeyes coach Kirk Ferentz said LSU’s balanced attack

poses problems for everyone.

There may not be much information available on Jennings, however

Ferentz has seen enough – and knows enough about Miles’ program –

to know what the Hawkeyes are up against.

”That’s really the only wild-card for us, that we don’t have

that much tape on him. But as I’ve said before, the job of a

quarterback – regardless of his style or his age – is to the move

the team,” Ferentz said. ”And he moved them in as about as

extreme circumstances as you can possibly dream up. You wouldn’t

put a guy in that situation in practice and expect him to do what

he did.”

Just the fact that Jennings rose to No. 2 on LSU’s depth chart

as a true freshman tells Ferentz a lot.

”They’ve recruited a lot of good players at LSU historically.

… We’re not sure exactly what to expect, but I know we can count

on a really good player being back there and a guy who’s a leader

of their football team,” the Iowa coach said.

Here are five things to watch when the Tigers and Hawkeyes, who

both have rich football traditions, meet for just the second

time.

NEW QB/SAME PLAN: Jennings is a more effective runner than

Mettenberger, but Miles says the Tigers won’t change much

offensively with the freshman running the show. Running back Jeremy

Hill and receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry teamed with

Mettenberger to make LSU the first team in Southeastern Conference

history to feature a 3,000-yard passer, two 1,000-yard receivers

and a 1,000-yard rusher in the same season. The Tigers expect

Jennings to keep his playmakers involved.

BALANCED APPROACH: Iowa features far less star power on offense,

however the Hawkeyes have a balanced attack that thrives on

spreading the ball around. Quarterback Jake Rudock for 2,281 yards

and 18 TDs in his first year as the Hawkeyes’ starter, and leading

receiver Kevonte Martin-Manley has just 39 receptions for 384 yards

and four TDs. Running back Mark Weisman is the leading rusher with

938 yards.

MUTUAL RESPECT: Few dispute the notion that from top to bottom

the SEC is the toughest football league in the nation. But Miles,

who played at Michigan and later served as an assistant coach with

the Wolverines, holds the Big Ten in high regard, too, calling it

”every bit as capable as any conference in America.”

STOUT DEFENSE: Iowa’s defense is allowing 303.2 yards per game,

120.8 rushing and 182.4 passing. LSU will challenge them with an

offense that’s averaging 465.9 yards – 200.8 rushing and 265.1

passing.

STREAKING: LSU is looking to make history with its fourth

consecutive season with at least 10 wins. The Tigers also had a

stretch of three double-digit seasons under Miles from 2005-07.

Iowa finished the regular season with a three-game winning streak

to get back in a New Year’s bowl for the first time in four

seasons.