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Outback Bowl: Can Anthony Jennings step up for LSU against a tough Iowa defense?

Sam Cooper
Dr. Saturday

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LSU freshman quarterback Anthony Jennings will get the start against Iowa (USA Today Sports)

Outback Bowl
LSU vs. Iowa
Tampa, Fla.
Jan. 1, 2014

LSU was billed as a national championship contender before the season began, but a week 5 loss to Georgia and a letdown at Ole Miss set the Tigers back.

The Tigers limped to a season-ending win and a 9-3 record with a win over Arkansas after starting quarterback Zach Mettenberger was lost with a knee injury. Freshman backup Anthony Jennings took over in his absence and led the Tigers on a 99-yard fourth-quarterback touchdown drive to help secure the win.

Jennings will start at quarterback and give Tiger fans a preview of what the LSU offense might look like next year in the Outback Bowl against an Iowa team that won its final three games with inspiring defensive performances.

The Hawkeye D, led by a stout linebacker group, gave up an average of just 18.8 points and 303.2 yards per game – both in the top 15 nationally. LSU has plenty of weapons for Iowa to attempt to contain. Wide receivers Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham combined for 132 catches, 2,289 yards and 18 touchdowns on the year. Running back Jeremy Hill ran for 1,185 yards at a clip of 6.8 yards per carry.

The Hawkeyes started the year off with a disappointing loss at home to Northern Illinois, but beat up on mediocre Big Ten teams like Minnesota, Purdue and Michigan to win eight games. Bruising running back Mark Weisman leads the way for an average Iowa offense that came alive with a great performance in a season-ending 38-17 win over Nebraska. Sophomore quarterback Jake Rudock is more of a game manager who is prone to mistakes.

If Rudock can avoid throwing an interception, a feat he accomplished in only four games this season, the Hawkeyes can certainly hang around.

MASCOT FIGHT

Since “Hawkeye” is just a nickname for a resident of Iowa, this isn’t much of a contest. Unless the Hawkeyes are fighting with weapons, the Tigers would be in for a treat.

PREDICTIONS

Graham: LSU 35, Iowa 21. New quarterback Anthony Jennings proved during his limited action that he's more than capable to lead the LSU offense and he'll have an opportunity to put up some big numbers against an Iowa defense that has struggled against ranked teams this season.

Nick: Outback: LSU 26, Iowa 23. Why do I have a feeling that this could be lower-scoring than what I'm predicting? With Zach Mettenberger this is a mismatch, but Kirk Ferentz, punts and all, keeps this one close before Les Miles eats some grass and LSU pulls it out.

Sam: LSU 23, Iowa 16. It will take Jennings a few series – maybe a quarter – to shake the bowl game jitters. Rudock too. Ultimately, with weapons like Landry, Beckham and Hill at his disposal, Jennings and LSU have the advantage. Iowa’s defense is really good, so it’ll be close, but I like LSU to pull out the win.

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