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
“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
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
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
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
“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
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
LSU lost on its only other trip to Tampa with a 23-10 defeat
against Syracuse in the 1989 Hall of Fame Bowl.