For the last 18 years, the Outback Bowl has matched a team from the SEC against a team from the Big Ten. The SEC entrants have won 11 of those 18 contests, including three of the last four.
The LSU Tigers will try to continue the SEC's run of success against the Big Ten when they meet the Iowa Hawkeyes, and they are favored on the Outback Bowl odds menu to do just that on New Year's Day in Tampa.
Outback Bowl point spread: Tigers opened as 7.5-point favorites; the total was 49. (Line updates and matchup report)
Odds Shark computer prediction: 37.7-32.4 Tigers
Why the Hawkeyes can cover the Outback Bowl spread
Iowa is back in a bowl after missing out last year. The Hawkeyes started 4-1 this year, then lost three of their next four games. They recovered and won their last three, finishing with a 38-17 victory at Nebraska. Iowa also owns wins over bowl-bound Minnesota and Michigan and battled hard against the Big Ten's two division champions, Michigan State and Ohio State.
The Hawkeyes are averaging 200 yards per game passing, 189 yards per game rushing, and their defense ranks seventh in the country overall, 17th vs. the run.
Sophomore QB Jake Rudock, who completed 60 percent of his throws in his first season as the starter, is dealing with a sore knee but is expected to play in this bowl. The Hawkeyes were perfect against the spread away from home in 2013 and own a 6-2 against-the-spread streak in bowl games.
Why the Tigers can cover the Outback Bowl spread
Anything short of an SEC championship is a disappointment around Baton Rouge, so even after going 9-3, motivation might be a factor for LSU in this bowl. The Tigers are the only team to beat Auburn this season, and their only losses came at Georgia, Ole Miss and then-No. 1 Alabama.
LSU is averaging 265 yards per game passing and 201 rushing and its defense ranks 20th in the country. Louisiana State is without QB Zach Mettenberger, who suffered a nasty knee injury in the season finale against Arkansas. But backup Anthony Jennings, who's likely to start this bowl, led the Tigers on a game-winning drive against the Hogs, capped off by a 49-yard TD bomb with a minute to go.
Historically, this game has been a safe OVER bet, according to the Outback Bowl odds history at Odds Shark. It's hard to tell how Mettenberger's absence might affect this game. LSU will now go with Jennings, who, while inexperienced, can probably do some things Mettenberger can't, especially with his feet.
LSU, under coach Les Miles, is known for winning big games, but it's also lost three of its last four bowls. Iowa, meanwhile, has perhaps been a bit underrated for recent bowl games by books and bettors alike.
The Hawkeyes are 6-2 ATS over their last eight bowls. The Tigers are still the better team, talent-wise, in this matchup, but Iowa should keep this one close. Take the points with the Hawkeyes.
- Past four (and nine of past 12) Outback Bowls played OVER the total
- Iowa was 5-0 ATS away from home in 2013
- LSU is 27-3 SU past 30 games as favorites