Iowa vs. LSU: 5 Reasons to Watch the Outback Bowl
Outback Bowl: 5 Reasons to Watch
The early game time slot on New Year's Day is always a very competitive one. This season, we have the Gator Bowl, Heart of Dallas Bowl, Capital One Bowl and Outback Bowl all starting at 12 or 1 p.m. ET.
All of these game will surely be interesting in their own right, but the one that stands out to me the most is the matchup between Iowa and 16th ranked LSU. The last time these two teams met was the 2005 Capital One Bowl. That was an incredible matchup where the Hawkeyes escaped with a last-second victory on a 56-yard touchdown pass from QB Drew Tate to WR Warren Holloway.
On paper, LSU looks like the better team. They have talented players all over the field, many of which will surely be playing on Sundays. LSU went through a brutal SEC schedule this season and finished 9-3 (5-3 SEC). Not exactly what the Tigers were expecting from this season, but not bad considering the level of talent they were up against.
Iowa was carried to an 8-4 record (5-3 in B1G play) by a stingy defense and good running game. The Big Ten has seen better days, and Iowa did not exactly have to run the gauntlet to get its 8-4 record. It beat the teams that it was supposed to beat, and lost to the teams that should have beaten it.
It will be very difficult for the Hawkeyes to matchup with LSU's talented personnel, but I will not count Iowa out. Head coach Kirk Ferentz is 6-4 all-time in bowl games, including 3-1 against SEC teams. With ample amounts of preparation time, Ferentz always does a nice job getting his teams ready for the bowl game.
This game will be very interesting. LSU is the clear favorite on paper, but Iowa's defense is good enough to keep it in any game. I think this will be a physical game, that will be close throughout and certainly worth watching. Here are five reasons to watch the Outback Bowl on New Year's Day.
5. Great Coaching Match-Up Between Kirk Ferentz and Les Miles
This game puts two of the best coaches in all of college football against one another. Ferentz has accomplished so much with so little at Iowa. He has had plenty of interest from bigger universities and even NFL teams, but seems to be content at Iowa. He is an old-fashioned style of coach that believes in running the ball and stopping the run. Sometimes it feels like football is passing Ferentz by and leaving him in the dust, but then his solid program jumps up and has another impressive 8-4 season with plenty of promise for 2014.
Ferentz is a very mild-mannered person. LSU head coach Les Miles is the complete opposite. Miles is a very charismatic and fiery individual that has no problem getting his team ready for a game. He is a great recruiter and incredible schematic coach that is not afraid to change his philosophies based on his personnel. The sideline match-up between Miles and Ferentz is simply one of the best of the bowl season.
4. Talented WR Core of LSU
LSU's WR duo of Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. is arguably the best in all of college football. Both players are juniors that would be possible first round picks in the NFL Draft if they wish to go that route.
Landry has all the physical tools that you would want out of a WR. He has nice size coupled with great speed and athleticism. He can take a play to the house at any given time. Beckham is a little smaller than Landry, but he is even faster and more athletic. Beckham has incredible speed and agility that he uses to make defenders look silly at times. Both of these guys are special players. They alone make this game worth watching.
3. LSU QB Anthony Jennings
Senior QB Zach Mettenberger is out for the season with a knee injury. Mettenberger really came into his own this season, but it is time for LSU to move on. Anthony Jennings ushers in a new era of LSU football. He is a very talented true freshman that can make plays with both his legs and arm.
Jennings was one of the highest ranked QB recruits in his class, and his skills will be on full display against the Hawkeyes. The success of Jennings will go a long ways in determining how competitive the LSU program will be in the next few seasons. That all begins in the Outback Bowl against a very good Iowa defense.
2. LSU RB Jeremy Hill Versus Incredible Iowa LB Core
Iowa was 17th in the nation against the run this season, only allowing 120.8 rushing yards per contest. Even more impressive, they only allowed five rushing TDs all season long. Led by a tough defensive line and an incredible group of senior linebackers, the Hawkeyes boast one of the toughest run defenses in the nation.
Something has to give in this match-up, because LSU's running game is led by one of the best running backs in the SEC, sophomore Jeremy Hill. James Morris and the rest of the Hawkeye defense will have a tough time keeping Hill in check. Hill has 1,185 rushing yards this season on only 175 carries. That comes out to an incredible 6.8 yards per carry average. He has also added 14 rushing touchdowns for good measure.
Hill is a punishing RB that rarely comes down on first contact. Iowa must get multiple players to the ball if they want to slow down Hill. Morris, Anthony Hitchens and Christian Kirksey make up one of the best linebacker cores in the nation. They must be on top of their game in this one.
1. Great Battle in the Trenches
When you think of Iowa football, the first thing that comes to mind is incredible line play. This team is no different. Offensively, they are led by left tackle Brandon Scherff, who would have been an obvious first round pick, but he is coming back for his senior season in 2014. Defensively, the Hawkeyes have an impressive defensive tackle duo of Carl Davis and Louis Trinca-Pasat. Both players are very physical and talented and do a great job of stuffing the run and rushing the passer.
LSU left tackle La'el Collins leads a very talented offensive line group. The unit struggles at times, but the talent is there for them to become an elite group. The LSU offensive line will be a big key in this game. If they play how they are capable, I do not think the Hawkeyes will be able to stop Hill and the run game. As with all of their other positions, LSU is extremely talented on the defensive front. Big defensive tackles Anthony Johnson and Ego Ferguson make plenty of noise in the middle and Danielle Hunter makes plays on the outside.
The battle in the trenches is what will decide this game. Iowa is used to winning this battle, but LSU is talented enough to steal this one from the Hawkeyes. If you like great play up front, this game is for you.