Iowa-LSU Preview

LSU has kept opponents on their toes all season with one of the

nation’s most balanced offenses.

It remains to be seen if the No. 14 Tigers can maintain that

identity when an injury forces them to start a true freshman at

quarterback against a stingy Iowa defense.

LSU will turn to Anthony Jennings when it meets the Hawkeyes in

the Outback Bowl on New Year’s Day in Tampa.

The Tigers (9-3), playing in a bowl game for the 14th

consecutive year, rank 21st nationally with 37.0 points per game

while utilizing a balanced attack. They average 265.1 yards through

the air – 33rd in the country – while their running game ranks 35th

with 200.8 yards per game.

In Tampa, they’ll try to maintain that offensive harmony without

senior quarterback Zach Mettenberger, whose college career came to

an end when he suffered a left knee injury in the fourth quarter of

LSU’s 31-27 win over Arkansas on Nov. 29.

Mettenberger has been projected as an early-round draft choice

after throwing for 22 TDs and finishing within 266 passing yards of

Rohan Davey’s single-season school record of 3,348. His 179.2

passer rating was third nationally, trailing only Florida State’s

Jameis Winston and Baylor’s Bryce Petty.

Jennings will get the nod in this one for LSU, which will start

a quarterback other than Mettenberger for the first time since a

21-0 loss to Alabama in the 2012 BCS championship game.

Jennings attempted only 10 passes this season, completing six

for 99 yards, though he did lead a 99-yard go-ahead touchdown drive

against the Razorbacks, capping it with a 49-yard pass to Travin

Dural.

“The good news is that the quarterback has been preparing all

along,” coach Les Miles told the school’s website. “We’re not in a

position that we have to change a lot. We will run our offense just

the way it is. That will benefit him because that is what he has

been doing the entire year anyways.”

Jennings does have the luxury of throwing to the only 1,000-yard

receiving duo in school history: Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham

Jr. Landry has caught 75 passes for 1,172 yards and 10 scores,

while Beckham has 1,117 on 57 receptions with eight TDs.

Nonetheless, it wouldn’t be surprising to see LSU lean more on

its ground game, led by sophomore back Jeremy Hill. Hill, who

averaged 6.8 yards per carry and scored 14 TDs, ran for a

season-high 184 yards when LSU dealt No. 2 Auburn its only loss on

Sept. 21.

Hill and his teammates will be up against an Iowa squad that won

its final three games – two on the road – on the strength of an

impressive defense.

The Hawkeyes (8-4) have been tough against both the run and

pass, ranking among the FBS’ top 17 units in total yardage for

each. Opponents are averaging 18.8 points and 303.2 total yards a

game, the 11th- and seventh-fewest in the country.

Linebackers Anthony Hitchens, James Morris and Christian Kirksey

all rank among the Big Ten’s top 10 tacklers. Morris tied for

second in the country among linebackers with four

interceptions.

Iowa started its season in mediocre fashion, losing three of its

first seven games, though those defeats came against Northern

Illinois, Michigan State and Ohio State – teams that went a

combined 36-3.

“They did not get dismayed when we were 4-3; they improved and

turned the corner and had a good season, a very enjoyable season,”

coach Kirk Ferentz, who is 6-4 in bowl games, told the team’s

website. “Our guys have a lot of fun together, they take a lot of

pride in what they do, and that is the type of team that is fun to

coach.”

Ferentz would love to see the Outback Bowl turn out the same way

his team’s only other meeting with LSU did. The Hawkeyes beat the

Tigers 30-25 in the 2005 Capital One Bowl when Drew Tate connected

on a 56-yard TD pass to Warren Holloway as time expired.

Miles was introduced as LSU’s new coach the next day after Nick

Saban left the program to coach the Miami Dolphins.

Iowa will be looking to improve to 5-2 against SEC teams in bowl

games and 3-1 in the Outback Bowl after a 31-10 victory over South

Carolina in the 2009 edition.

“It’s a great opportunity for us. We had a pretty good regular

season and we want to finish strong with a good game against a good

opponent,” said running back Mark Weisman, who ran for four TDs in

the final three games. “You get to play a very good team, that’s

what you want in college football. You want to play good

competition in a bowl game.”

Iowa nearly had a quarterback scare of its own with sophomore

Jake Rudock exiting late in its season-ending victory at Nebraska

due to a knee injury, but he is expected to play.

The Hawkeyes are 14-11-1 all-time in bowl games, while LSU is

22-18-1, though the Tigers have dropped three of their last

four.

LSU lost on its only other trip to Tampa with a 23-10 defeat

against Syracuse in the 1989 Hall of Fame Bowl.