With the 2013 regular season in the books, LSU and every other team around the country learned their bowl fate on Sunday night. The two biggest points of discussion with any team's bowl selection are location and opposition.
For the Tigers, who've lived the vast majority of the program's postseason life in Atlanta, Dallas and New Orleans over the past decade, a trip to Tampa for the Outback Bowl is a nice change of pace and venue, beach-ward, for purple-and-gold fans. The Bloomin' Onion Bowl, contested on New Year's Day, also carries a decent amount of cachet, a positive thing for an LSU team that, at 10-2, took one for the conference this time a year ago by going the Chick-fil-A Bowl route when the Cotton Bowl preferred Texas A&M.
Where many in Tiger Nation will go sideways, however, with LSU's bowl situation is in the foe – Iowa.
Kirk Ferentz's Hawkeyes, 8-4 overall and 5-3 in the Big Ten, finished second in the conference's Legends Division, behind only Michigan State. It's fitting to mention Iowa in the same breath as the conference champion Spartans, considering the Hawkeyes are really built in the same way as Sparty, just a slightly watered-down version.
Like MSU, Iowa is predicated on strong, stout defense. The Hawkeyes' three starting linebackers each have registered at least 97 tackles on the season, spearheading a unit that ranks seventh in the country in total defense and 11th in the NCAA in both passing defense and scoring defense.
But, while defense is Iowa's calling card, the offense has been mediocre at best this fall, lending credence to the perception that the Hawkeyes are a standard (read: boring) Big Ten team.
Ferentz's crew is on a three-game winning streak to end the regular season (see below), but scoring has definitely been an issue, particularly against the stiffer competition the Hawkeyes have faced. Iowa posted only nine points in a home loss to Wisconsin and scored 14 apiece in consecutive losses to Michigan State and at Ohio State.
When it comes to the prestige of the program, Iowa also doesn't elicit the same response as recent LSU bowl combatants like Alabama, Penn State, Ohio State and even Clemson from a year ago. Here's how the Hawkeyes have finished every season since 2005 under Ferentz, who's led the program since 1999: 7-5 (2005), 6-7 (2006), 6-6 (2007), 9-4 (2008), 11-2 (2009), 8-5 (2010), 7-6 (2011) and 4-8 (2012).
Of course in the season prior to 2005, Iowa and LSU met in a Florida-based bowl game, the Capital One Bowl, in a contest that went down to the very end, when the Hawkeyes beat the Tigers on a last-second Hail Mary in the final game Nick Saban coached on the Tigers' sideline.
The two programs haven't exactly gone in the same direction since. Iowa had a nice two-year run from 2008-09, including an Orange Bowl berth and win over Georgia Tech in '09, but has lost at least five games in every other season since that Capital One Bowl miracle. LSU, in the meanwhile, has won two SEC titles, a national championship and played for a second crystal ball.
On New Year's Day 2014 the two will renew acquaintances, seeing how they measure up this time around in a different Florida locale.
Northern Illinois – L, 30-27
Missouri State – W, 28-14
at Iowa State – W, 27-21
Western Michigan – W, 59-3
at Minnesota – W, 23-7
Michigan State – L, 26-14
at Ohio State – L, 34-24
Northwestern – W, 17-10 (OT)
Wisconsin – L, 28-9
at Purdue – W, 38-14
Michigan – W, 24-21
at Nebraska – W, 38-17
Rushing Offense: 188.6 (41st, NCAA)
Passing Offense: 200.4 (92)
Total Offense: 389.0 (80)
Scoring Offense: 27.3 (74)
Rushing Defense: 120.8 (17)
Passing Defense: 182.4 (11)
Total Defense: 303.2 (7)
Scoring Defense: 18.8 (11)
Individual Stats – Offense
Leading Passer: Jake Rudock – 195-of-324 (60.2%) for 2,281 yards, 18 TD/12 INT
Leading Rusher: Mark Weisman – 209 carries for 938 yards (4.5 ypc), 7 TD
Leading Receiver: Kevonte Martin-Manley – 39 catches for 384 yards, 4 TD
Individual Stats – Defense
Leading Tackler: LB Anthony Hitchens – 102 tackles, 13 TFL, 2 sacks
2nd Leading Tackler: LB James Morris – 98 tackles, 14.5 TFL, 5 sacks, 4 INTs
3rd Leading Tackler: LB Christian Kirksey – 97 tackles, 4 TFL 1.5 sacks
Leading DB: CB B.J. Lowery – 55 tackles, 3 INTs, 16 PBUs, 19 pass deflections
REACTION: LSU draws Iowa
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