TAMPA — LSU became the first team in SEC history to have a pair of 1,000-yard receivers and a running back to rush for more than 1,000 yards in the same season.
“It's a tough team to defense because of their balance and the players they put out there,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said.
RB Jeremy Hill rushed for 1,185 yards while Odell Beckham Jr. (1,117 yards) and Jarvis Landry (1,172) became the first pair of receivers in LSU history to record 1,000 receiving yards in the same season.
“They have a self perception of an anticipation of can't wait to make the next big play,” Ferentz said of Beckham Jr. and Landry. “These guys are going to go up and get the ball. They jump out of the gym, have unbelievable ball skills and have great speed. They run routes that are very disciplined.”
LSU's offensive threats present a great challenge to Iowa's defense, which ranked seventh in the nation in total defense after allowing 303.2 yards per game and was seventh in the nation in first downs allowed per game (16).
“When you give up an average of 303.2 yards per game in the Big Ten, it says this is as good of a defense as we will play,” LSU coach Les Miles said. “I think the guys are really looking forward to it. Anytime you're presented with a challenge, it brings out a competitive want.”
About the new guy
A question facing both teams during bowl week is how LSU freshman Anthony Jennings will change the offense now that he is the starting quarterback.
Miles maintained Jennings will work with the same playbook senior Zach Mettenberger used before suffering a season-ending knee injury during LSU's final regular-season game.
“I think the playbook will be as it's been,” Miles said. “I think the interpretation will be different.”
Miles said Jennings, who responded to his new role by leading the Tigers on a game-winning, 99-yard, last-minute touchdown drive against Arkansas, spent most of the bowl practices participating in drills rather than running plays.
“It's where his comfort is,” Miles said. “Our best opportunity for a victory is if he's comfortable.”
Iowa prepared to face a more mobile quarterback than Mettenberger, but Miles said Jennings might be more mobile because of his inexperience.
“I think Zach knew where he needed to be to make his throw,” Miles said. “I think Anthony is really kind of exploring the pocket a little bit more with his movements.”
The drive for nine
The Hawkeyes had lost three of their last four games when they played at Purdue on Nov. 9. With their record at 5-4 and three games remaining on the schedule, Ferentz reminded his team that they could not only clinch a bowl berth with a win that day but also set themselves up for a nine-win season.
“The point was, the season wasn't over,” Ferentz said.
The Hawkeyes responded with wins against Purdue, Michigan and Nebraska to improve to 8-4.
Iowa has won at least nine games in a season only 13 times in the history of the program that dates back to 1889. The last time the Hawkeyes finished a season with a four-game winning streak was in 2008, which was also the last time they played in the Outback Bowl.
The drive for 10
With a win this afternoon, LSU will have won at least 10 games in four consecutive seasons for the first time in program history.
“It's a huge deal, especially in LSU history,” LB D.J. Welter said.
The 43 wins over the past four seasons matches the school-record 43 wins from 2004-07.
Ferentz was asked at Tuesday morning's news conference if he could take anything away from how Alabama wore down LSU during the Crimson Tide's 38-17 win on Nov. 9. “I worked with (Alabama coach) Nick (Saban) a couple of years in Cleveland,” Ferentz said. “I called him and asked him if I could borrow a couple of his guys.” Ferentz said Saban would not be “that charitable.” ... When told Tuesday that his name would “be floated” in the NFL rumor mill, Miles said he's not interested in any NFL head-coaching jobs. “Let's not float it,” Miles said. ... The temperature Tuesday morning in Iowa City was 2 degrees. ... NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Kevin Harvick will toss the coin before today's game.