- Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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This week, we're taking a deeper dive into each of the Big Ten's upcoming bowl opponents. Up next: Les Miles' LSU Tigers, who face Iowa in the Outback Bowl.
Let's get started ...
No. 16 LSU (9-3) vs. Iowa (8-4)
Tampa, 1 p.m. ET Jan. 1, ESPN
Coach: Les Miles (94-24, ninth year at LSU; 122-45, 13th year overall)
Combined opponents' record: 77-70
Common opponents: None
Best wins: Auburn, Texas A&M
Worst loss: Ole Miss
Record vs. Iowa: 0-1 (lost 2005 Capital One Bowl 30-25)
Top passer: Zach Mettenberger* (3,082 yards, 22 TDs)
Top rusher: Jeremy Hill (1,185 yards, 14 TDs)
Top defenders: Lamin Barrow (86 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, 1 fumble recovered); Anthony Johnson (3 sacks, 7 tackles for loss, 3 quarterback hurries); Jalen Mills (61 tackles, 3 INTs, 3 sacks)
*-Suffered season-ending injury Nov. 29 against Arkansas
What to know: After losing 11 underclassmen to the NFL draft, LSU became a lot younger this season and endured some predictable ups and downs. The Tigers are the only team to beat Auburn, which will play Florida State in the national title game, and continued to dominate at Tiger Stadium, posting a 7-0 record. But they went just 1-3 in SEC road games, the lone victory coming against Mississippi State. Mettenberger had a breakthrough season under new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron, the former Indiana head coach. But his absence creates some concern as true freshman Anthony Jennings takes over for the bowl game. Jennings, who completed 6 of 10 pass attempts this season, will lean on 1,000-yard receivers Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham. Johnson anchors a defense ranked 20th nationally in yards allowed and 16th against the pass. Beckham is dangerous in the kicking game, averaging 26.9 yards on kick returns and 10.1 yards on punt returns.
Key matchup: Iowa's defensive front seven against Hill, who averages 6.8 yards per carry with six 100-yard performances in 11 games, including 145 yards in the regular-season finale against Arkansas. The Hawkeyes rank 17th nationally in rush defense (120.8 ypg) and have allowed only five rushing touchdowns, tied with Florida State for the fewest in the FBS. If linebacker James Morris and his teammates can contain Hill and force Jennings into obvious passing situations, Iowa should be in good shape to record some takeaways against the young quarterback. Special teams also could loom large in this one as Iowa counters LSU's return game with Kevonte Martin-Manley, who averages 16.2 yards on punt returns with two touchdowns.
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