College Football

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Iowa (8-4) vs. (14) LSU (9-3)



Wednesday, January 1, 1 p.m. (et)

The Sports Network

By Nicholas DeLorenzo, Associate College Football Editor

GAME NOTES: The Big Ten and the SEC square off in the 28th annual Outback Bowl on Wednesday afternoon, as the Iowa Hawkeyes take on the 14th-ranked LSU Tigers at Raymond James Stadium.

After missing out on bowl season last year with a disappointing 4-8 ledger, the Hawkeyes are back in the postseason for the 11th time in the past 13 years after finishing up 8-4, including 5-3 in the Big Ten. The Hawkeyes are rolling into this contest hot with three straight wins, including a road victory in the regular-season finale at Nebraska, 38-17.

"We know we have an incredible challenge ahead," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. "When we played (LSU) in 2004, they were extremely talented and very well coached, and they aren't a lot different this year. They have continued to recruit well and they win a lot of games. It will be a great challenge for our team."

Treading through the tough SEC, LSU put together an impressive 9-3 campaign, its fifth straight season with at least nine wins and its 14th straight bowl bid. Although the Tigers closed out the regular season with back-to-back wins over Texas A&M (34-10) and Arkansas (31-27), they have not fared as well outside of Baton Rouge, going just 2-3 combined in road and neutral-field matchups.

"We are focused and we are here to play a game," Miles said. "This is not just a vacation in Tampa for us. This team is motivated by the chance at winning a 10th game and to come away with a bowl championship."

The only previous meeting between the teams came in the Citrus Bowl on Jan. 1, 2005, when Iowa came away with a 30-25 victory.

Iowa has found plenty of success this season in spite of owning the Big Ten's ninth-best scoring offense (27.3 ppg), although that number has shot up to 33.3 points per game on its current three-game winning streak.

The Hawkeyes are a run-first team, with more than 61 percent of their plays coming on the ground, although despite their persistence, they average just a modest 4.4 yards per carry. Mark Weisman is the workhorse, posting 937 yards and seven touchdowns, while ranking sixth in the Big Ten in carries (208). Damon Bullock (467 yards, TD) and Jordan Canzeri (447 yards, two TDs) are mixed in as well.

Jake Rudock has had a tendency to be careless with the football, as he's tossed 12 interceptions, but for the most part the Hawkeyes' conservative play-calling has suited him well with 2,281 yards and 18 touchdowns on greater than 60 percent completion percentage, while rushing for an additional five scores.

Kevonte Martin-Manley (39 receptions, 384 yards, four TDs) is the top playmaker out wide and has also ran back a pair of punts for scores. CJ Fiedorowicz (26 receptions, 253 yards) becomes a bigger factor in the red zone, hauling in six touchdowns.

While the offense has failed to wow anyone, Iowa's big turnaround this season can be almost solely be attributed to its outstanding defense, which allows just 18.8 points and 303.2 yards, both numbers ranking in the top-11 nationally.

Not only does Anthony Hitchens lead the team with 102 tackles, but he makes plays all over the field from his linebacker position with 13.0 TFL, 2.0 sacks, two forced fumbles and an interception. Both Hitchens and James Morris (98 tackles, 14.5 TFL, 5.0 sacks, four INTs) were named Second Team All-Big Ten, while Tanner Miller and B.J. Lowery have also been stellar with three interceptions apiece.

LSU's offense was outstanding this season, putting up 37.0 points per game while displaying great balance between the run (200.8 ypg) and the pass (265.1 ypg). However, the unit carries a big unknown into this matchup without its starting quarterback.

After posting an excellent campaign (.649 completion percentage, 3,082 yards, 22 TDs, eight INTs), Zach Mettenberger was lost for the season earlier this month with a torn ACL.

"We are very disappointed for Zach," Miles said. "He's been a tremendous leader for our team and he's as competitive a guy as I have ever been around. He's had a great impact on our program."

In Mettenberger's absence, the keys to the offense will be handed over to freshman signal caller Anthony Jennings, who has seen very limited action this season (6-of-10, 99 yards, TD).

It remains to be seen how Jennings' presence will affect one of the nation's best receiving duos in Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham, both of whom where selected to the All-SEC second team. Landry hauled in 75 passes for 1,172 yards and 10 touchdowns, while Beckham has caught 57 balls for 1,117 yards and eight scores, while adding another 947 return yards.

Without Mettenberger, expect the Tigers to rely even more heavily on the ground game. Jeremy Hill is the most utilized back, turning 175 carries into 1,185 yards and 14 touchdowns, while Terrence Magee (614 yards, eight TDs), Alfred Blue (317 yards, TD) and Kenny Hilliard (307 yards, seven TDs) are also actively involved.

While LSU's defense was not as dominant this year as it has been in seasons past, it was still stellar enough to support its high-scoring attack, allowing just 22.7 points per game, while holding opponents to under 40 percent on third down.

Lamin Barrow is the unit's leading tackler with 86 stops, while Jalen Miles (61 tackles) has picked off three passes. Anthony Johnson (7.0 TFL, 3.0 sacks) and Jermauria Rasco (6.5 TFL, 4.0 sacks) anchor a modest defensive line.

There are a lot of unknowns with LSU coming into this contest without its stud quarterback. If it can establish a strong rushing attack, it'll have a good chance to outlast a Hawkeyes squad that lacks explosion. Still, with the Tigers starting an inexperienced quarterback, expect Iowa's stout defense to make the difference with a handful of momentum-swinging plays.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Iowa 24, LSU 21

12/29 14:35:26 ET

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Scoreboard
Local
Final
NOR 1
DUR 2
 
1:05pm Today
NOR
DUR
 
3:30pm Today
MIA
CHA
Final
WAS 3
STL 4
Final
CLE 0
TOR 5
Final
DET 5
ANA 2
Final
BOS 4
BAL 2
Final
KAN 5
MIN 4
Final
CHC 8
CIN 4
Final
OAK 4
HOU 3
Final
PIT 7
MIL 8
Final
NYM 5
ATL 7
Final
TAM 16
NYY 1
Final
MIA 7
SEA 0
Final
TEX 6
CWS 3
Final
LOS 8
ARI 6
Final
COL 3
PHI 1
Final
SDP 3
SFG 1
1:05pm Today
CLE
TOR
1:08pm Today
DET
ANA
1:10pm Today
NYM
ATL
 
1:10pm Today
MIA
SEA
1:35pm Today
PIT
MIL
 
1:35pm Today
WAS
STL
 
1:40pm Today
TAM
NYY
2:10pm Today
KAN
MIN
2:20pm Today
CHC
CIN
 
3:05pm Today
TEX
CWS
4:05pm Today
OAK
HOU
4:10pm Today
LOS
ARI
4:10pm Today
COL
PHI
 
4:10pm Today
SDP
SFG
7:05pm Tonight
BOS
BAL
Final
TOR 87
BRK 94
Final
LAC 105
GSW 109
Final
IND 93
ATL 101
Final
OKC 100
MEM 86
1:00pm Today
SAN
DAL
3:30pm Today
MIA
CHA
7:00pm Tonight
CHI
WAS
9:30pm Tonight
HOU
POR
Final
STL 4
CHI 3
Final
PIT 3
CLB 4
Final
COL 4
MIN 2
12:00pm Today
NYR
PHI
3:00pm Today
BOS
DET
7:00pm Tonight
MON
TAM
10:00pm Tonight
SJS
LOS
Final
NOR 1
DUR 2
 
1:05pm Today
NOR
DUR