Let's go bowling

Kyle Riviere
Freshman Anthony Jennings will make his first ever start against Iowa in the Outback Bowl. Photo by Crystal LoGiudice.

For Tiger fans, the year just isn't the same if it begins with a loss. That's how they've been forced to start things the past two seasons.

If LSU wants things to be different this time around, they'll have to take down the 8-4 Iowa Hawkeyes on New Year's for the Outback Bowl in Tampa.

Any time the Tigers draw Iowa, it has to be painfully pointed out that in their last matchup, the Hawkeyes stomped on their hearts on the way to a miracle victory.

LSU was done in by the very same divine intervention that had given them a victory just three years prior.

In that 2005 Capital One Bowl, Iowa shellshocked them with a last-second Hail Mary that earned them a thrilling and improbable 30-25 win.

The No. 14 Tigers will try to erase those grisly 9-year-old memories come next Wednesday and create some new ones. They're hoping these new memories will feature them beating the Hawkeyes for their first bowl win in three years.

Like every game LSU has endured in the SEC, this clash with Iowa will come down to how they perform in the trenches.

The Tigers have struggled up front all year. In the passing game, they only registered 24 sacks during the regular season--which ranks them 61st in the nation.

However, where LSU will have to show the most improvement to beat Iowa is in stopping the run. The Tigers have struggled mightily against teams that run at them north and south.

Going into the bowl game, they only rank 43rd in the nation against the run--yielding 149 yards a game.

This has to be a concern for the Tigers facing a Hawkeye offense that is predicated on a power rushing attack.

Iowa averages 189 yards a game on the ground with 236-pound fullback Mark Weisman doing much of the damage. Weisman has rushed for 938 yards and seven touchdowns this year while averaging 4.5 yards a carry.

The Tiger secondary has steadily improved throughout the year after getting off to a rough start. They ended the regular season ranked No. 17 in the nation.

They'll be facing off against a quarterback in Jake Rudock that has been a little turnover-prone. He threw 12 interceptions this year--three alone in the Hawkeyes' week 11 win over Michigan.

Iowa's secondary has been outstanding all season. The Hawkeyes are only giving up 178 yards passing a game--ranking them 11th in the country.

But they haven't faced the one-two punch at receiver they'll face against the Tigers.

Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry make up arguably the best receiving tandem in the country. Both men finished the regular season with over 1,100 yards and combined for 18 touchdown catches.

Unfortunately for the Tigers, they'll be without the guy that got them the ball for those 18 scores. Zach Mettenberger will be watching from the sideline after tearing his ACL in the season finale against Arkansas.

In his place will be the mobile freshman Anthony Jennings. Jennings looked good in his relief appearance against the Razorbacks but still has attempted only 10 passes in his young college career.

With his inexperience, Jeremy Hill and Terrance Magee will likely have the biggest impact for the Tigers.

Hill rattled off 1,185 yards rushing and 14 touchdowns this year despite being suspended for a game and a half. And Magee had 614 yards and eight touchdowns on just 79 carries--giving him a whopping 7.8 average.

They'll have their work cut out for them though. Iowa is ranked No. 17 in the nation in stopping the run. They only give up 121 yards a game.

Either way, if history is any kind of indicator, it should be a great game. Since 2000, eight of the 13 Outback Bowls have been decided by eight points or less. Three have gone to overtime.