LSU vs. Iowa: Five Burning Questions for the 2013 Outback Bowl
LSU fans predicted before the season began that the Tigers would play Iowa in the Outback Bowl, right?
Most fans figured the Tigers would lose some games due to an arduous schedule and their high roster turnover, so playing in a New Year's Day Bowl is not the worst consolation prize.
The Tigers will look to give Les Miles his seventh 10-win season in Baton Rouge with a win over the Hawkeyes while Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz will attempt to defeat an SEC opponent in the Outback Bowl for a second time after beating South Carolina in 2009.
Expect old-school smash-mouth football when the Tigers and Hawkeyes meet. Miles and Ferentz would not have it any other way.
LSU and Iowa have only faced each other once before, when the Hawkeyes snuck by the Tigers in the 2005 Capital One Bowl, thanks to the late heroics of quarterback Drew Tate.
Here are a few helpful details for this season's Outback Bowl:
Time: 1 ET
Place: Raymond James Stadium
Spread: LSU by 7, via Scores and Odds
Can LSU Keep a Balanced Approach on Offense?
The LSU offense has been balanced this season under offensive coordinator Cam Cameron.
While Jarvis Landry, Odell Beckham Jr. and Jeremy Hill have combined for over 3,000 yards of total offense, the maestro of the LSU offense, Zach Mettenberger, will miss the Outback Bowl due to a leg injury.
Freshman quarterback Anthony Jennings, who miraculously led LSU to victory over Arkansas, will replace Mettenberger. The Outback Bowl will be the perfect audition for Jennings to be the Tigers starting quarterback next season.
Cameron will pound the football with Hill, who has a favorable matchup against Iowa. That should open up the play-action pass for Jennings.
Jennings will need to throw some on first down to keep the Iowa defense honest, and he has shown great touch on his passes in limited action. Cameron will also trust him to convert on 3rd-and-long situations, something LSU has done successfully all season.
Miles is going to want to keep the ball on the ground, but with weapons like Beckham Jr. and Landry on the outside, expect the Tigers try to get the ball down the field in what might be their final game in purple and gold, according to Carter Bryant of Bleacher Report.
How Will Iowa Defend LSU Schematically?
Iowa's defense will need to play its best against a potent LSU offense.
Head coach Kirk Ferentz has a solid group of defenders that tackles well, but the Hawkeyes struggled stopping the upper echelon of the Big Ten this season.
Jeremy Hill will get his fair share of carries, but Iowa will try to make Jennings win the game through the air. The Hawkeyes, however, must be careful about packing the box to stop the run.
Hill has five runs of 50 yards or more this season and specializes in breaking through tackles in tight spaces while making defenders miss in the open field.
Iowa will also need to have safety help over the top against LSU's dangerous receivers. If Jennings has time, he will deliver the football to Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry for huge chunks of yardage.
Iowa must mix up their defenses against LSU. If not, offensive coordinator Cam Cameron will find ways to make massive plays.
Can LSU's Defensive Front Dominate?
Simply put, the LSU defensive front has been average this season, but the underachieving unit could end the season with a bang against Iowa.
Junior defensive tackles Anthony Johnson and Ego Ferguson could be playing their last games at LSU. Despite having average seasons, Johnson and Ferguson have the potential to be drafted next spring. A New Year's Day bowl is an excellent way for the duo to showcase their abilities.
The Iowa offensive line could be the strongest unit on the Hawkeyes. The group has only allowed 12 sacks, which ranked first in the Big Ten. LSU's defensive ends must put pressure on quarterback Jake Rudock.
SEC fans boast of superior line play when SEC teams face opponents from other conferences. The LSU defensive line will need to rise to the occasion against Iowa to keep up that reputation.
Will Iowa's Playmakers Play Big?
Iowa's offense will need to find creative ways to move the football.
Quarterback Jake Rudock is the definition of a game manager, as the Hawkeyes specialize in shortening games and capitalizing on errors.
When Rudock is not forced to make plays, the Hawkeyes have a better chance of winning. Rudock's three games where he had his highest totals in both passing yardage and attempts this season all resulted in losses.
Part of Rudock's struggles has been the lack of explosion from his skill position players.
Iowa's rushing attack ranked sixth in the Big Ten, thanks to running backs Mark Weisman and Damon Bullock, but the two backs have combined for only one carry over 30 yards this season.
On the outside, Kevonte Martin-Manley is Iowa's best receiver, but he has only one reception of 25 yards or more.
The Hawkeyes offense is efficient, but in order to beat the Tigers, Rudock and the LSU offense will need to make some big plays.
The LSU defense has given up huge gains all season, but if the Tigers don't feel threatened by Iowa's playmakers, defensive coordinator John Chavis will be able to make aggressive calls that will give Iowa headaches.
Who Will Win the Battle of the Returners?
Memo to Outback Bowl kickers and punters: When in doubt, kick it out of bounds.
Iowa's Kevonte Martin-Manley led the Big Ten in punt return average this season and scored both of his touchdown returns on back-to-back returns against Western Michigan.
LSU's Odell Beckham Jr. is fourth in the SEC in punt return average and third in kick return average. He is an artist at making defenders miss and setting up blocks for game-changing plays.
South Carolina's Ace Sanders returned a 66-yard punt for a touchdown in last year's Outback Bowl to help earn earn the game's MVP award. Can Martin-Manley and Beckham Jr. perform the same magic this time on New Year's Day?
Three of the last four Outback Bowls have been decided by five points or less, and two of those went into overtime.
LSU and Iowa could easily go down to the wire, much like their thriller in 2005 at the Capital One Bowl.
LSU has more talent, but Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz has proven that he can elevate his team's play in bowl games.
ESPN's Monday Night Football broadcasting crew of Mike Tirico, Lisa Salters and Jon Gruden will call the game. Gruden will not be short of "Grudenisms" for both teams.
Expect Gruden to gush more about the pro prospects from LSU, as the Tigers have a multitude of players looking to impress NFL scouts, especially on offense.
LSU should be galvanized behind young quarterback Anthony Jennings in his first college start. The Tigers might begin the game a little slow, but expect the LSU offensive line to set the tone for the second half as the Tigers pull away.
Score: LSU 34, Iowa 17