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Iowa Football: Hawkeyes draw No. 16 LSU in Outback Bowl

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The last time the Iowa football team faced off against LSU, Drew Tate found an open Warren Holloway streaking down the hash marks for a 56-yard game-winning touchdown as time expired in the Capital One Bowl in Orlando, Fla.

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The Hawkeyes will meet the Tigers in another bowl game this New Year’s Day but it will take place in a different city in Florida as the Outback Bowl announced Sunday that their matchup would include the 8-4 Iowa Hawkeyes and the 16th ranked and 9-3 LSU Tigers.

“It’s a real happy day for our football team,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said. “We are thrilled to be going back Tampa Bay. They do a fantastic job with hosting the event but also with matching us up against a marquee opponent. Playing LSU will be a big challenge for us and we’ll turn our sights to them tomorrow. They are the only team to beat Auburn and Auburn is an outstanding football team.”

The Outback Bowl is scheduled to take place at noon on Wednesday, Jan. 1. The game will be televised by ESPN from Raymond James Stadium, which holds 65,657 fans and is the home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The ESPN television crew that worked the Outback Bowl last year was the Monday Night Football guys in Mike Tirico and Jon Gruden.

Iowa will be playing in its fourth Outback Bowl. The Hawkeyes split two games with Florida back in 2003 (37-17 win) and 2005 (31-24 loss) and also defeated South Carolina 31-10 back in 2008.

Iowa has won three of its last four bowl games and is 14-11-1 in its 26 previous bowl appearances.

“We are thrilled to go back. We had a great experience the last time we were there,” Iowa Athletic Director Gary Barta said. “Congratulations to Kirk and to the seniors and the rest of the guys for turning this around. I am pleased with how things have unfolded since last year.”

The Hawkeyes, at 8-4 overall and 5-3 in division play, ended up in a tie for second in the Legends Division behind Big Ten champion Michigan State. The Hawkeyes have won four of their last five games and the win over Nebraska on Black Friday gave them three consecutive victories.

“The selling happens on the field really,” Barta said. “We are playing good football right now, some of the best in the Big Ten actually.”

LSU was 5-3 in Southeastern Conference play and was third in the SEC West Division.

The only bowl loss Ferentz has sustained against teams currently in the SEC was that 2005 game against Urban Meyer’s Florida Gators. The four wins have come against South Carolina, LSU, Florida and Missouri.

The only meeting between Iowa and LSU came in the 2005 Capital One Bowl. The back-and-forth game resulted in a 30-25 win for the Hawkeyes after Tate found a streaking Holloway for the game-winning touchdown. It was the only TD catch of Holloway’s career.

The Hawkeyes rank third amongst Big Ten teams in bowl appearances and Iowa is bowl eligible for the 12th time in 15 seasons under Ferentz. The Hawkeyes are 6-4 in their previous 10 trips to bowl games under Ferentz and have victories in four of the six games played in January.

Since 2001, no Big Ten team has won more bowl games or has a higher winning percentage in bowl games than Iowa.

"We feel these two teams will continue our reputation of putting on an exciting show," Outback Bowl chairman Ken Hoverman said.

LSU holds a 22-21-1 all-time record in bowls yet has lost consecutive games for the first time since 1985-86 seasons.

The Tigers will play on New Year’s Day for the 23rd time in school history, and will meet a Big Ten opponent in a postseason bowl for the fifth time, all since the 2001 season.

“I will tell you that they will be excited as they can be,” said LSU coach Les Miles on how his team will feel about playing in the Outback Bowl. “They recognize that their opponent will be Iowa, and Iowa has finished the season with three victories. They have played everyone on their schedule extremely well, and we will have to play well in the game to have victory.”

Know Your Opponent: LSU

The Tigers are 9-3 and their best wins have come against now No. 2 Auburn, 35-21, at home against an Auburn team that was unranked at the time. They also beat Johnny Football and Texas A&M at home. The TCU win was only by 10 points and the win over Florida also did not appear to be that impressive.

Two of the Tigers’ three losses though came by a combined six points at Georgia and at Mississippi. The loss to Alabama was by 21 points.

The key factor to the Outback Bowl is the fact that starting quarterback Zach Mettenberger will not play after sustaining a season-ending injury in LSU’s regular season finale against Arkansas.

The back-up is Anthony Jennings and he has only thrown 10 passes, completing six for 99 yards and a score. All that production came on the Tigers’ final and game-winning drive against the Razorbacks in the regular season finale.

Jeremy Hill leads the ground game with 1,185 yards and 10 touchdowns but Terrance Magee also eight touchdowns and 614 rushing yards.

The passing game will be a bit of an unknown due to Mettenberger’s absence but it won’t be hard knowing where Jennings will likely look to throw to.

Jarvis Landry has 75 catches for 1,172 yards and 10 scores, while Odell Beckham has 57 catches for 1,117 yards and eight scores. The third best receiver has caught 18 passes for 181 yards. Landry and Beckham are the only LSU receivers to have pass the 1,000-yard mark in the same season.

However, Jennings’ only touchdown capped the comeback against Arkansas with a 49-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Travin Dural with 75 seconds to play.

With Mettenberger, the Tigers were averaging around 37 points and 466 yards per game. They average 5.1 yards rushing per carry and throw for more than 266 yards per game. The defense allows almost 23 points per game and surrenders 350 yards per game.

“I think when you show up at a very quality venue and an area that football is awfully important, I think our fans and friends will travel there,” Miles said. “There are things to do and certainly the weather is great for the holidays. I think all of the new sites present a lure to our team that we will look forward to. We also recognize the opportunity to play well in that game is certainly most important.”

Beckham recently suffered an injury that Miles does not expect will keep him out of the bowl game. Safety Corey Thompson, however, is not expected to play in the Outback Bowl though, according to Miles.

“Odell’s (Beckham) injury was a significant bump, and he will certainly be healed and ready to roll,” said Miles. “If we were playing a game today, he wouldn’t miss a snap. I don’t suspect Corey Thompson to be back for the bowl game, but we are hopeful.”

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