BBD Staff Writer: Eric Samulski
Injured and showing chinks in a usually stellar defense, Les Miles’ LSU Tigers finished 2013 with 9-3 record and a defense that ranked just 45th in the nation. Their offense improved with the maturation of senior quarterback Zach Mettenberger, but after he suffered a torn ACL in LSU’s regular-season finale against Arkansas, the Tigers will need to win a bowl game without him to earn its fourth straight 10-win season.
Iowa, on the other hand, came into the season with no expectations and seemed to be meeting that low bar. Their Nov. 2 loss to Wisconsin dropped them to 5-4, but the Hawkeyes seemed to flip a switch at the end of the season, beating Purdue and Nebraska on the road and coming from behind to beat Michigan at home to finish the year with an 8-4 record. On Wednesday, the Hawkeyes will put their ball control, ground-based offense up against a surprisingly electric LSU offense in the Outback Bowl (1 p.m., ESPN).
Wednesday’s game will be a battle of physicality versus explosion; the only surprise is which one the typically-stout Tigers has become.