Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2014 Outback Bowl: Iowa Hawkeyes (8-4) vs. #16 BCS ranked LSU Tigers (9-3)

Tampa, FL -- The New Year opens for the Iowa and LSU football teams in the 2014 Outback Bowl with a Noon kickoff on ESPN (HD) in Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.

Iowa is lead at quarterback by a first-year starter, sophomore Jake Rudock. Rudock  is seeking to enjoy a homecoming with the Outback Bowl appearance, as a Florida high school player. Rudock is 8-4 as a starter for the Hawkeyes. Rudock is a game manager for Iowa offensive coordinator Greg Davis, who is making his first bowl appearance, in his second season at Iowa. Davis was OC for Texas' Mack Brown, until the 2010 season.

LSU Les Miles on what he sees in Iowa offensive coordinator Greg Davis’ system:
LSU Coach Les Miles is in his
ninth season as head coach.
“I think any offensive coordinator always does some things that speak to the talents he has. You can see what they’re doing; it’s just the challenge of stopping it. I think he’s a very talented coach that calls a game with experience and understanding. He’s a very capable play caller.”

Iowa will mix the running game, play action passing and Greg Davis' horizontal passing game. Iowa goes five deep at TE and Davis uses different running backs andwide receivers over the course of the game.

LSU is making a change at quarterback for the Outback Bowl, due to the injury of 12 game starter, senior Zach Mettenberger, in the final game of the regular season. True freshman Anthony Jennings will make his first start vs. Iowa in the Outback Bowl. Jennings was required to come into the final game of the season, during the fourth quarter and rally LSU to a come from behind victory.

Iowa upset LSU in the 2005 Capital Bowl on the final play. LSU won their final game of the 2013 season, with a last minute touchdown pass from Jennings on a 99 yard drive to defeat Arkansas, coached by an Iowa alum, Bret Bielema. Could we see the Outback Bowl come down to the wire, as Iowa-LSU square off for the second time in the series history?

On getting Anthony Jennings ready for his first start (Miles):
“We really focused on him running drills as opposed to necessarily have practices and plays. We put a little bit more burden on him in terms of preparing to handle the huddle, handle the play call. That, besides the physical execution of the play, has made a little bit more burden that much.”

Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz on preparing for new LSU quarterback Anthony Jennings:
Iowa head coach
Kirk Ferentz, 11th
bowl game in 15
seasons at the helm.
LSU QB Anthony Jennings is 6 for 10 passing, 99 yards, one
touchdown as a true freshman, in the regular season.
“That’s really the only wildcard for us is that we don’t have much tape on him. As I've said before, the job of any quarterback regardless of his style or his age is to move the team. He moved them in about as extreme circumstances as you can possibly dream up. You wouldn't put a guy in that situation in practice, I don’t think, and expect him to do what he did. So that’s the bottom line. I think the other obvious thing to me is they recruit a lot of good players at LSU historically. For him to move from incoming freshman to the number two guy the way he did knowing that they've got a senior who’s going to go on to the NFL, I think that says a lot about the people that have seen him on a day to day basis. We’re not sure what exactly to expect, but I know this, we can count on a really good player being back there and a guy who’s a leader on their football team.”

Both quarterbacks will be under pressure, as underclassmen. Both are first-year starters at quarterback. Could the Florida homecoming effect Rudock's poise for Iowa? 

On how Jennings is handling the spotlight (Miles):
“The greatest characteristic of Anthony Jennings is poise. He’s always had it, he’s never been motivated by situations, it’s what he does. He did it in the spring of the year. He pursued the starting job with great effort and energy. He’s always been a guy that came in and sought extra coaching, sought knowledge of the game when he was second team. The confidence of the team, really, when he went under center didn’t change; we kind of knew what to expect. We expect him to play well.”

Iowa junior RB Mark
Weisman is 62 yards
from a 1,000 yard season.

Iowa has four running backs who have played during the 2014 season. One is close to a 1,000 yard season, in junior Mark Weisman (938 yards), but Iowa is using a rotation of running backs, as the season comes to a close. LSU, who also can go four deep at running back, is lead by a 1,000 yard rusher in sophomore Jeremy Hill (1,185 yards), who likely will carry the primary load for the Tigers.

Iowa coach Ferentz on facing LSU running back Jeremy Hill:
“He’s an outstanding back and I think they have several. Our coaches have respect for all four we’ve seen on film. If you look at him last year, statistically, he was one of, and now he’s certainly risen to the top of an outstanding group. He’s a tremendous football player; strong, physical. The rest of the story to me is they are just a well-conceived offensive football team. It starts with the way they block up front. They’ve got big, physical guys up front that allow them to get going. They’ve got good skill players at every position. They’ve got the kind of balance, if you look at them statistically they’re over 200 throwing it and 200 rushing. It’s a tough team to defense because of their balance and the players they put out there, but he’s certainly a marquee player.”

Both teams will work to establish a balanced attack on offense.

Iowa has improved on offense after an awful 4-8 season in 2012. But, it isn't a sexy team compared to LSU or most of the top college offenses today. Iowa beats opponents using the sum of all its parts, which starts with establishing the run and continues with a passing attack that features the tight end. Iowa will bring a business-like attitude on offense. The Iowa offense will attempt to move the chains and stay ahead on downs. Iowa does need to improve in the red zone, a problem at times throughout the 2013 season. Iowa Is undefeated this season, when they win the turnover margin game.

On Iowa tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz (Ferentz):
Senior TE C.J.
Fiedorwicz leads
Iowa in TD receptions.
“First of all, the obvious thing is he has great size and great ability. He had that when he came to us. He’s one of the few guys that looked like that when he showed up. He’s a four-year player. I talked about the linebackers and C.J. is the same way, he’s a four-year player now, he’s more productive than he’s ever been. He’s a very willing blocker and a very good blocker. He’s done a really nice job in the passing game, particularly down in the red zone. When you have a guy with that size, he’s aggressive to the ball, and he does it on the practice field as well. I think that will serve him well moving forward too. We’re excited about him being on our football team. He’ll draw attention I’m sure. He does have the ability to make some plays. It’s good to have some players that can do that. He’s certainly capable of winning a one-on-one contest.”

On the LSU offense and what to expect with a new quarterback (Ferentz):
“We don’t know; it’s a little bit like a first game. I wasn’t joking about that, I wish it was three days of preparation rather than three weeks. All that being said, what they were doing was working pretty well this year. So we have to be ready for anything. I don’t expect a wholesale change, but I’m sure we’ll see a wrinkle or two, and that all makes sense. I think philosophically what they try to do we expect to see that. I don’t think they’re just going to take those receivers out of the game. It would be okay if they chose to."

On the team getting accustomed to new quarterback Anthony Jennings (Miles):
“It’s like anything, it takes time. It’s interesting, in that last game, with the second-team center and second-team quarterback, there was no quarterback-center exchange issue whatsoever. We were fortunate it happened that way I guess. We haven’t had any real problems there as we move forward. I think (Elliott) Porter, our starting center, and Anthony have just operated very effectively. There are some different throws and some different abilities at the quarterback spot. He does the things that Zach (Mettenberger) does to a certain regard, and he does some of the things that he does better.”

LSU has a very productive lead running back and two 1,000 yard pass receivers, so Jennings has a lot of guys in the huddle to lean on in his first start. Junior wide receiver Odell Beckham (1,117 yards) won the Paul Hornung Award in 2013. Junior Jarvis Landry is the other top notch SEC wide receiver leading the Tigers with 1,172 yards receiving. Iowa's pass defense will be tested. 
Iowa defensive
coordinator Phil Parker,
2 seasons as DC and
15 seasons under Kirk
Ferentz overall.

Iowa defensive coordinator Phil Parker said Beckham and Landry are the best receiver tandem Iowa has faced this season, which will make it tough to cheat in certain areas defensively. Iowa's passing defense will face a stiff test on New Year's Day. Can Iowa defense avoid giving up explosive plays against LSU?

"If you steal from one area you're going to have to pay somewhere else, so you have to be very careful," Parker said. "They move their two receivers around, so it's hard to double them. But you have to be very careful and know where they are, especially on third downs. They're fast guys, very talented receivers."

On the importance of a good defense (Ferentz):
“I think that’s pretty much true in football, at least I still believe that and I think most coaches that have been in their jobs for a while believe that. In any sport, defense is important. For us typically that means we have to improve and that’s something our team did this year. We came into the season with three linebackers that we expected to play at a high level. They’re all seniors and they played an awful lot. They’ve practiced well and they really, I think, helped lead our football team. We always have stories. For us to lose our corner early and Jordan Lomax came out early. For Desmond (King) to jump in there, none of us could have predicted that. Things like that enable you to move on and hopefully improve. I think the guys have really done a good job in moving forward and advancing. This is certainly, I think, going to be our biggest challenge defensively, the team that we’re facing.”

On the Iowa linebackers and defense (Miles):
“I think they play the scheme as well as I’ve seen it played. It’s a traditional scheme but there’s nothing traditional about how they play it. The technique is excellent; they’re on their keys. They’re always in position and physical. They know how to take on blocks. I think the linebacking corps, I think the secondary and the defensive front all play a very disciplined concept and it allows them to play at a very high level no matter who they play, no matter if it’s a spread team or a two-back team. The concept transitions those different offenses extremely well.”

On how he would describe LSU football (Miles):
“I think the concept is the same as any collegiate football team. You’re coming to school to get a degree and it’s important to our guys that they graduate and they put themselves into a position to have success beyond football. I think people that come to LSU want to play at a very high level, want to play for the national championship, and in this instance, a championship. I think there are some similarities between our program and all the other well-run programs in this country.”

The Outback Bowl isn't the BCS title game. Last year, LSU lost in the Chick-fil-A Bowl, 25-24 to Clemson. In LSU's last loss in Florida, 19-17 to Penn State, during the 2010 Capital One Bowl, was LSU playing down to competition, since they were not in the BCS again?

LSU has a lot to play for in the Outback Bowl ...

On the opportunity for a fourth straight 10-win season (Miles):
“I think there are some seniors in there that really see that, feel that, and want that. I think the motivation for playing this game, if you’re a competitor, is playing a quality team. Victory is really motivation enough. You have to play well; you have to play smart, play tough. You have to be called upon to show all the talents and skills you have.”

Miles' alma mater Michigan had a similar situation in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl starting a new true freshman quarterback in his first start. Senior leadership is critical for both teams, whether it be Michigan-Kansas State or Iowa-LSU. As is often said in bowl games, who wants to be there?

"Our guys have been focused and understand what we're trying to do and that's get our ninth win of the season for this team," Parker said about Iowa's challenge vs. LSU.

Iowa's Parker went on to say that LSU is a talented team and it will be a challenge when the two teams meet in Raymond James Stadium.

"The thing we're trying to do is finish this season up in a positive way," Ferentz said during his final pregame news conference. "What that comes down to is playing our best football. That's what it is going to take to beat LSU tomorrow."

  • Iowa has 11 wins all-time against teams from the Southeastern Conference. Iowa also has lost 11 times to SEC opponents.
  • Iowa will be looking to secure the Big Ten Conference its 11th victory in the Outback Bowl. The league is 10-14 since 1988. Iowa has two of the Big Ten's 10 victories.
  • Iowa's defense has allowed only 13 red-zone touchdowns which ranks third-lowest in the nation.
  • Sixteen seniors will play their final game as a Hawkeye against LSU on Jan. 1.
  • LSU is ranked 14th in both the Associate Press and USA Today Top 25's; the Tigers were No. 16 in the final Bowl Championship Series ranking.
  • LSU (9-3) is making its 45th all-time bowl appearance (22-21-1 record), and ninth straight in nine seasons under head coach Les Miles, but this marks only the second appearance in the Outback Bowl in school history.

Less than 24 hours and counting to the 2014 Outback Bowl: How do the head coaches stack up in Tampa?

Tampa, FL -- The Underdog from the Big Ten against one of the
Big Dogs
from the SEC, as the Iowa Hawkeyes (8-4) vs. the LSU Tigers (9-3) kickoff at Noon on ESPN (HD) in the 2014 Outback Bowl in Raymond James Stadium, in Tampa on New Year's Day.

The Hawkeyes and Tigers are both lead by experienced head coaches, in Kirk Ferentz and Les Miles, respectively.  Neither coach has faced one another before. By the way, both Ferentz and Miles began their careers, as offensive line coaches.

Miles has coached in two BCS title games during his nine years at LSU, with a 1-1 record; he is 2-1 in BCS bowls. Ferentz has never lead Iowa to a BCS title game, but the Hawkeyes are 1-1 in BCS bowls during his 15 seasons as head coach.

The Coaches meet in a joint press conference ahead of the New Year's 2014 Outback Bowl.

Two veteran coaches, as Iowa's Kirk Ferentz and LSU's Les
Miles, will meet for the first time in a head to head game.
Iowa's Kirk Ferentz Opening statement:
“We’re thrilled to be selected to play in this game. Those of us that have been on the trip prior just know what a great experience it is and has proven to be. The hospitality that the people on the Outback committee extend to us is first class; it’s second to none. Tampa Bay provides a great venue for a bowl game and the other ingredient is you always play an outstanding team from the SEC, and that’s certainly the case again this year. We’re thrilled to have the opportunity to be in the game and we know we have a big challenge on our hands with LSU. But it’s been fun for our guys to prepare and hopefully it will be a great football game.”

LSU's Les Miles Opening statement:
“I concur with Kirk. The opportunity to be selected by the Outback Bowl and to be here in Tampa, our players, and coaches and coaches’ families are enjoying the venue. Our practice facilities and hotel we stay in is just what we want. We’re enjoying the preparation, again, playing a quality Big Ten opponent in Iowa. Watching the film we have great respect for the discipline of their program and the style of team they put on the field. We’re looking forward very much to the competition.”

Bowl Records for Ferentz and Miles:
Ferentz at Iowa is 6-4 in bowl games, including a 3-1 record vs. SEC opponents on New Year's Day. This includes a 30-25 win over LSU on the final play of the 2005 Capital One Bowl.  On the flip side, Miles at LSU is 5-3 in bowl games, including a 1-1 record vs. Big Ten opponents. LSU won the BCS title during the 2007 season with a 38-24 win over Ohio State. During the 2009 season, LSU lost Penn State 19-17 in the Capital One Bowl. Iowa won the Orange Bowl that same year over Georgia Tech.

Les Miles is a former Big Ten student-athlete
Miles is a former offensive lineman for the Michigan Wolverines, lettering in 1974 and 1975 for former coach Bo  Schembechler. His first coaching stop was as a graduate assistant in 1980 and 1981. From 1968 to 1980, the Big Ten was actually the Big 2 and the Little 8. Ohio State and Michigan were the dominate programs. It wasn't until 1981, until Iowa's coach J. Hayden Fry knocked the Big 2 out of position. Iowa beat Michigan 9-7 in Ann Arbor, when Les Miles was a GA. In 1974, Michigan opened the season with a 24-7 win over Iowa.

So, how will the first meeting of two former offensive line coaches play out in Tampa?

Iowa's Ferentz is
3-1 vs. SEC opponents,
including 1-0 vs. LSU.
On preparing to face an SEC opponent (Ferentz):
“You see them occasionally on TV. We don’t exchange as much film obviously. Occasionally some people from our conference will overlap and play. It’s pretty much come to bowl exposure, but you’d have to be blind to college football to not recognize their level of talent and the level of coaching in the conference. It’s outstanding and it’s well-documented. We did have the opportunity to play LSU years ago and they were riding a wave of success at that point and it was the former coach’s last game. Coach Miles has come in and just done nothing but take that thing another level up. They've got outstanding players and they are very well coached. I think there’s a lot of that going on in the league. When we watch the tapes and the cut-ups that’s what you’re seeing. It’s an outstanding football conference and I think that’s well documented.”

LSU Les Miles is 1-1 vs. B1G
opponents and have lost three
of last four bowl games.
On playing a Big Ten team (Miles):
“If you’re from the Big Ten, you really enjoy seeing some of those old helmets. I was fortunate to be on great Michigan teams and prepared for that conference. That conference is a tremendously competitive very capable football conference. The more that you study the teams that they played and succeeded in beating, the Big Ten conference is every bit as capable as any conference in America.”

Miles did play for two outstanding Michigan teams, but each of those teams, finished second to the Ohio State. It had to be special to defeat Ohio State, as a head coach at LSU, in winning that lone BCS title. In his lone bowl game, as a player during the 1975 season. Miles' Michigan team lost in the Orange Bowl to Oklahoma.

On the Auburn win representing what the Tigers can do (Miles):
“Certainly the body of work this season is looked at by our team, and I think to play our best is always the challenge. In the last game with each individual on offense, defense, special teams, you want them to play their best in this game. In the Auburn game and the other games that we've played, we know what we’re capable of and we’d like to see how good we can be in this game. So the incentive to do that is a great Iowa team.”

On coming down to Tampa before Christmas (Ferentz):
“It’s just something we do and we've been to enough bowls now where we've had trial and error. The most revealing trip for me is our (2002 season) Orange Bowl trip. It was just a total disaster in retrospect. It’s sad because we had a really good football team and we played a game that was totally non-representative of the team we had. It was just everything we had done well we really did poorly and I attribute that to the way we handled the trip and ultimately that’s my responsibility. I think it’s good for us, especially being a northern team. We practice indoors and you can control the climate, but it’s not the same as being outside. Yesterday, for us, was a humid day believe it or not. Those things make a difference. So I think for a team coming out of the north it’s just good to get in the environment. If you’re not used to practicing outdoors get back in that routine a little bit and hopefully get a couple of your worst practices out of the way before the game comes.”

Who will play the more representative game in Tampa?

One of these teams will continue a bowl losing streak, after the 2014 Outback Bowl. Iowa lost in the 2011 Insight Bowl to Oklahoma 31-14, but were coming off three straight bowl wins during the 2008-10 seasons. Iowa has new offensive and defensive coordinators, so this could be a factor or not?

  • Iowa has allowed 26 points for more in all four losses during the Ferentz era
  • Iowa has only scored 30 points twice during the six bowl wins under Ferentz
  • In Miles three bowl losses at LSU, the Tigers were held to 24 points or less
  • LSU has scored more than 38 points in all five of LSU's wins under Miles
Iowa has scored at least 23 points in every game outside Kinnick Stadium in 2013. LSU only scored 24 points and 17 points, in losses respectively to Ole Miss (27 points) and Alabama (38 points).  The story-line appears to be Iowa's ability to bring their seventh ranked defense to Tampa vs. LSU's ability to get their true freshman quarterback in sync, so the Tigers offense remains on track using an explosive balance of run and pass. But, how will Iowa's ground game on offense, with a mix of play action passing and Greg Davis' horizontal passing offense match up with LSU's athletic 4-3 defense? One can't forget the role special teams plays in bowl games, as well.

It should be an interesting chess match lead by two former offensive line coaches. 

A game in the twenties would seem to favor Iowa, while LSU will have a challenge getting to their regular thirties and forties, but still, an explosive group of skill players for Iowa to reckon with in Tampa ...

Happy New Year's Eve - College Football & Basketball

Independence Bowl :
Arizona vs. Boston College at 11:30 a.m. on ESPN (HD)
Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez appears on track at Arizona, unlike his former team, Michigan, and their recent bowl trip to AZ (K-State beat Michigan 31-14 in BWW Bowl)

Sun Bowl:
UCLA vs. Virginia Tech 1:00 p.m. on CBS (HD)
Battle of young and old coach lead programs in El Paso!

Liberty Bowl :
Mississippi State vs. Rice at 3:00 p.m. on ESPN (HD)
SEC vs. C-USA bowl match up on New Year's Eve!

Peach Bowl:
Duke vs. Texas A&M at 7:00 p.m. on ESPN (HD)
Close out 2013 with the final game of 2013!

Of course plenty of Big East and Big Ten conference games in College Basketball to enjoy elsewhere on the dial to celebrate the close out of 2013.

Nebraska at Iowa at 6 p.m. to open Big Ten play ...
Marquette at Creighton at 9 p.m. to open Big East play ...

Bring on the New Year 2014 ...
                                                        including the New Year's Games and final days of BCS!

Monday, December 30, 2013

It's Monday, as the New Year nears!

Some will be working on Monday, December 30th, while others will be playing ...

Armed Forces Bowl:
Middle Tennessee vs. Navy at 10:45 a.m. on ESPN (HD)
Anchors away!

Music City Bowl :
Georgia Tech vs. Ole Miss at 2:15 p.m. on ESPN (HD)
Go Yellow Jackets in Nashville!

Alamo Bowl :
Oregon vs. Texas at 5:45 p.m. on ESPN (HD)
Final swan song for the Longhorns coach Mack Brown in San Antonio!

Holiday Bowl:
Arizona State vs. Texas Tech at 9:15 p.m. on ESPN (HD)
Pac 12 vs. Big 12 night cap in San Diego!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

2014 Outback Bowl: Can Iowa knock off LSU for the second time in series history?

Tampa, FL -- The Iowa Hawkeyes (8-4) and the LSU Tigers (8-4) have a little history. The brief history was the 30-25 Iowa win on the final play of the game in the 2005 Capital One Bowl down the road in Orlando.
The Hawkeyes enjoyed
off time at Busch Gardens
Tampa Bay.

On January 1, 2014, the two programs will play one more time, this time in Tampa, in the 2014 Outback Bowl, with a Noon kickoff on ESPN (HD).

The University of Iowa resumed workouts, with practice on Saturday, after an off day on Friday, where the team enjoyed the sites at Busch Gardens. The Hawkeyes are practicing at Tampa Jesuit High School in preparation for the game with LSU in the Outback Bowl.

Iowa second-year offensive coordinator Greg Davis said after practice that the Tigers' defense mirrors Iowa's defense in some ways.

"They're a four-down team that plays aggressive," said Davis. "They're big man-to-man on normal down-and-distance, and play a lot of two safeties on third-and-long. It'll be a challenge."

Iowa OC Greg Davis
at practice during
the Hawkeyes bowl
preparation at Tampa
Jesuit High School.
Davis added that because of the pressure LSU's defensive front, the Hawkeyes will need to do a good job mixing things up offensively.

"They're ends can really rush and their inside guys are big and push the pocket well," said Davis. "We'll have to employ different personnel groupings -- find ways to run the ball and create some play action passes."

Iowa sophomore QB
Jake Rudock ahead of
his first start. He
started all 12 games
for Iowa in 2013.
Sophomore Jake Rudock is the Hawkeye signal caller who has had success making checks at the line of scrimmage all season based on the defensive look. Rudock enters the bowl game completing 60-percent of his passes (195-of-324) for 2,281 yards and 18 touchdowns. Davis has had confidence in his first-year starting quarterback from day one.

"We started the year knowing he was smart," said Davis. "Sometimes book smarts and football smarts don't always coincide, but in his case it does. We started the season with some easier thing, and as the season progressed, he has handled more and more. He works at it -- watching a lot of film on his own."

The Tiger defense ranks 20th in the country in total defense, allowing 349.7 yards per contest. Preparing for a team as skilled as LSU, Davis said the Hawkeyes need to be two-dimensional in order to have success.

"We'll have to be productive running and catching, and running after the catch," said Davis. "Hopefully, we've taken steps in that direction."

Iowa junior Mark
Weisman is 63 yards
shy of a 1,000 yard
season at RB.
Leading the Hawkeye ground attack this season has been Mark Weisman. The junior running back enters the bowl game 63 yards shy of 1,000 for the season, something that has been accomplished 17 other times in Iowa history. Davis continues to praise the former walk-on's work ethic.

"Mark is someone you have to like," Davis said. "He comes to work every day and works hard. Mark has a terrific approach to the game.

LSU has two very good
wide receivers, but Iowa
sophomore Tevaun Smith
is becoming Iowa's B1G
WR target in 2013.
"I think we've been a little smarter with him too, letting Damon [Bullock] and [Jordan] Canzeri get in there because his style is not going to change. When he carries it in the 25-30 range, he's going to take some collisions -- he's going to dish out some collisions, too. We have tried to be smarter with him, not only during games but also during the week."

In the air attack, Davis has been pleased with what sophomore Tevaun Smith has done recently.

"The play against Michigan (55-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter) did a lot for his confidence," said Davis. "Tevaun has practiced with more confidence since that game. This will be another big challenge because he'll be one-on-one a lot during the game."

Davis is a big proponent of explosive plays on offense. A 12 yard run or 16 yard pass play or more is usually the definition Davis uses in explaining explosive plays. Explosive plays, whether it be in special teams, on defense or from the offense, will be important for either Iowa or LSU in the Outback Bowl.

LSU arrived in Tampa, after Iowa and is preparing for the 2005
rematch, as well. Though, after nine years, very few were a part
of that game, other than some of the Iowa coaches.
LSU has also arrived in Tampa. The Tigers are practicing at the University of Tampa in preparation for their game with Iowa in the Outback Bowl.

The weather here is great,” LSU coach Les Miles said. “I would hope that our LSU fans show up and cheer on the Tigers. I can tell you that there’s plenty of sunshine, the stadium is as nice a venue as you’ll find during bowl season and Tampa is a great destination city. This is going to be a great game and I hope there’s a lot of purple and gold in the seats.”

Both Iowa and LSU lost in their last bowl games, respectively. Each team's last bowl win came during the 2010 season. Iowa beat Missouri in the 2010 Insight Bowl, while LSU beat Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl. 

So, one of these teams will see a streak come to an end in the 2014 Outback Bowl

Last year, LSU gave up 12 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to lose to Clemson 25-24 in the Chick-fil-A Bowl in Atlanta. LSU is 21-22-1 in bowl games and has lost back to back bowl games, including the BCS title game, during the 2011 season.

The last postseason football appearance for Iowa, who are 14-11-1 in bowl games (4-2 vs. SEC), ended in defeat, but that night -- Dec. 30, 2011 -- had a silver lining. It marked the actual beginning of the career of senior Brett Van Sloten, who will make his 25th consecutive start at right tackle Wednesday in the Outback Bowl.

Iowa senior RT Brett
Van Sloten is
preparing to make his
25th start at Iowa
in the Outback Bowl.
Van Sloten was thrown into the fire two seasons ago against No. 14 Oklahoma in the Insight Bowl when senior starter Markus Zusevics became ill. The Hawkeyes managed to outgain Oklahoma by 17 yards, but lost the game, 31-14.

"It was a lot of fun to get that first playing action, but unfortunately we fell a little short," Van Sloten said Saturday after practice at Jesuit High School. "We're hoping to get that taste out of our mouth in terms of bowl wins."

The 6-foot-7, 300-pound Van Sloten looked up to the upperclassmen on the 2011 team -- James FerentzAdam GettisRiley Reiff, and Matt Tobin -- when he was pressed into emergency action. Now it is Van Sloten who is leading younger Hawkeyes like Austin BlytheEric Simmons, and Ryan Ward.

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz underscores the importance that to have a good team, seniors need to play their best. Van Sloten comprehends the message.

"That starts with guys I have looked up to, whether it has been Riley ReiffMarkus Zusevics,James Ferentz -- those guys are who I wanted to be like in terms of football," Van Sloten said. "They took care of business, they took care of their jobs, and led well. That is what I was looking to do and I hope I leave my footprint like they left their footprint. Thankfully we have had underclassmen buy into our junior and senior leadership.
We're fortunate they bought into what the leaders wanted to get done this year. We need to stay collected for one more week and get the job done Jan. 1."

When the Hawkeyes play the #16 BCS ranked Tigers in the Outback Bowl on Jan. 1 in Raymond James Stadium. Van Sloten is more seasoned than he was in 2011, but this will be the first bowl start for the native of Decorah, Iowa, who is a permanent offensive team captain and a second-team All-Big Ten Conference selection by coaches.

"Brett Van Sloten embodies all things that are good about football and about college athletics," Ferentz said. "He wouldn't be the star at the combine. He won't be the guy who is off the charts, but he is a football player, a team guy, and an unbelievable leader. Players follow him and that's a guy you want them to follow. His agenda is pure and it's everything we want it to be. He is a hard-working, intelligent, tough-minded guy."
Like most games, the clash against LSU has potential to be decided in the trenches, where the Hawkeyes -- with Van Sloten's help -- have averaged 188.5 yards per game on the ground. The leading rusher for the Hawkeyes is junior Mark Weisman, who has gained 937 yards with seven touchdowns.

"He is one of those guys who is never going to let you down," Weisman said of Van Sloten. "He is a great teammate and leader for us and it has been a pleasure to be his teammate. I'm happy to have one more game with him."

Van Sloten was nervous in the 2011 Insight Bowl, and he still remembers the first play he was involved in -- "17 to the left" -- where he executed a backside block that allowed him to ease into the game.

"(Offensive line) coach (Reese) Morgan told me to calm down, I was shaking a little bit," Van Sloten said.
While the first few plays on that noteworthy Insight Bowl night are still moving slow motion in Van Sloten's mind, the last 24 games have flown past.

"We're looking forward to one more game as Iowa Hawkeyes, I'm thankful for the opportunity to play here," Van Sloten said. "It has been a great ride and Conor Boffeli, Nolan (MacMillan) and I on the offensive line are looking to cap it off and go out on a high note."

ESPN analyst Jon Gruden was doing homework on the University of Iowa football team Thursday at Jesuit High School. Mike Tirico, Jon Gruden, Lisa Salters will be the announcers for ESPN during the 2014 Outback Bowl.

And Gruden is a big fan of Ferentz.

Iowa junior LT
Brandon Scherff
will return in 2014
where Iowa
will play in all
four trophy games.
"I like the style coach Ferentz plays at Iowa, I always have," Gruden said. "They're tough, high-effort teams. They don't beat themselves. You can't find the fundamentals and techniques in an offensive line anywhere else in the country. You're looking at a team that is well-coached; look at the amount of reps they get in one practice. It's impressive."

As for the 2014 Outback Bowl, Gruden predicts an entertaining game between two traditional style teams that are under center a lot.

"Very good, physical teams," he said. "Play action pass, running game, staying ahead in the chains is very important to Iowa."

Gruden says he is still coming up with possible Hawkeye "Gruden Grinder" candidates -- his award for a game's toughest performer.

"I do like (junior offensive left tackle Brandon) Scherff, I like the way he finishes," Gruden said. "It seems he has the perfect temperament in a left tackle."

LSU coach Les Miles is in his ninth season leading the Tigers.
The Tigers finished 5-3 in the SEC West, with a 31-27 win
at Arkansas
to close the regular season 9-3 overall.
LSU is making its school-record 14th consecutive bowl trip, but it’s playing in the Outback Bowl for just the second time and the first since the 1988 season. The Tigers have never beat Iowa, nor won in Tampa, losing the 1988 Hall of Fame Bowl to Syracuse.

LSU will be starting a true freshman in his first start of his career, after senior Zach Mettenberger was knocked out of the Arkansas game in the fourth quarter with a knee injury. Mettenberger will miss the Outback Bowl and the true freshman Anthony Jennings will take over as LSU’s starting quarterback.

“Anthony (Jennings) had a good practice,” Miles said. “One thing about it is he is getting more reps, and he is going to come of age very quickly.”

LSU true freshman Anthony Jennings will make first start
in 2014 Outback Bowl in Raymond James Stadium vs. Iowa.
“The good news is that it’s the post season, and we have had him in place as the second team quarterback all season so he’s gotten practice reps all year. These 12 bowl practices will have the focus on him and we expect him to respond and play well.”

Jennings came of age quickly against Arkansas as he directed the Tigers on a game-winning 99-yard scoring drive to beat the Razorbacks 31-27 in the season-finale. Jennings connected with redshirt freshman Travin Dural on a 49-yard TD pass with just over a minute left to complete the comeback win.

Against Iowa, the Tigers will face a Hawkeye team that has won three straight and goes into the game with a 5-3 Big Ten record and 8-4 overall. Three of Iowa’s losses have come to teams with just one loss as they fell to Northern Illinois, Michigan State and Ohio State. Iowa’s other loss came to Wisconsin.
Final play of 2005
Capital One Bowl:
Iowa 30, LSU 25.

Miles said that the Tigers should have little trouble getting motivated to play the Big Ten opponent. Miles was named the LSU head coach, after the 2005 Capital One Bowl where the Hawkeyes posted a 30-25 last-second victory in the only other game between LSU and Iowa.

“If they don’t get fired up about playing in a quality bowl game against an opponent like Iowa, there is something wrong with them,” Miles said “They aren’t getting that from me. They have a big running back that runs hard. They have an offensive line that is very disciplined and will block you. We will have to fight. They are a good football team. Honestly, this is exactly what we need- to end the season with a challenge."

Big Ten Preview
of 2014 Outback Bowl
“I promise you these Tigers are going to have to fight for victory, and it is going to be a wonderful competitive contest. I can’t imagine it wouldn’t be. I can’t imagine anyone who wouldn’t want to go. I think it is a great place to play.”

LSU, like in the 2005 Capital One Bowl game, is favored to win over Iowa by a touchdown in the 2014 Outback Bowl.

It will not be an easy game for the Iowa Hawkeyes. A win would be defined as another upset victory for the Hawkeyes during a bowl game under coach Ferentz. Iowa is 6-4 (3-1 vs. SEC) in bowl games under coach Ferentz, who is in his 15th season.

What's on the line for each team:
Iowa will likely finish in the Top 25 with a nine win season, if they are successful in the Outback, with a win. This would be impressive coming off an awful 4-8 season in 2012. LSU is looking for a 10 win season heading into the off season, where the Tigers will open the 2014 season, against another Big Ten opponent (Wisconsin) in Houston, Texas.

B1G is off to 0-1 start, so can Michigan break the tide vs. K-State in Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl tonight?

December 28, 2013
Minnesota falls 21-17 to Syracuse in Texas Bowl - Recap

Next up for Big Ten: Michigan (7-5) vs. Kansas State (7-5) 
Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl
Tempe, Arizona
9:15 p.m. kickoff on ESPN (HD)
Big Ten Preview on game

Tempe, AZ -- The Big Ten Conference is off to a 0-1 start, with Minnesota's 21-17 loss to Syracuse. Some may say 0-3, since both Maryland and Rutgers also fell, and they will both join the Big Ten in 2014.

This is the first game ever between the Michigan Wolverines (Big Ten) and the Kansas State Wildcats (Big 12). It will come in the 25th annual Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl in Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe.

MichiganMichigan coach Brady Hoke (1-1 in bowls at Michigan) is in his third season in Ann Arbor, as a head coach. The Wolverines finished with a disappointing 3-5 Big Ten record, including four losses in their final five B1G games. The Wolverines are 20-22 in bowl games, with a 23-20 overtime in the 2012 Sugar Bowl over Virginia Tech, but last year lost 33-28 to South Carolina late in the Outback Bowl.

Kansas State coach Bill Snyder has coached 22 years in Manhattan. He is a former Iowa offensive coordinator, so faced the Michigan Wolverines from 1979 to 1988, when Iowa-Michigan played, so Snyder is very familiar with the Wolverines tradition in the Big Ten. The Wildcats finished 5-4 this season in the Big 12, winning five of their final six conference games. Kansas State is 6-10 in bowl games, with five straight losses, including a 35-17 loss to Oregon in last year's Fiesta Bowl.
Kansas State coach Bill Snyder, in his
22nd season, as head coach.

Kansas State - Michigan preview from the Kansas City Star
Prediction by the Star: Kansas State 28-21 fueled by the Wildcats seeking to end five game bowl losing streak.

Kansas State is favored by five points in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.

Michigan Pedigree from the official bowl site:
"The blue-blood Wolverines are competing their 134th season of college football. They boast 910 all-time wins, the most of any institution at any level of college football."

At one time, Kansas State before the arrival of coach Bill Snyder in 1989, the Wildcats were one of the lowest, most unsuccessful major college football programs. In the last twenty years, the Wildcats have played in 15 bowl games.

Michigan freshman
QB Shane Morris
(5-9 for 65 yards)
will start in bowl game.
Michigan will start a true freshman at quarterback for the bowl game, after junior Devin Gardner was injured during the 42-41 loss to Ohio State in the final Big Ten game. Shane Morris is a 6-3, 201 pound player, who was highly regarded out of high school, will get his first start. Gardner played through the injury in the loss to Ohio State.

 "I think he's had some great preparation. Obviously we were trying to figure out if Devin was going to be able to go," said coach Hoke. "Snap-wise Shane has taken a lot of the snaps between him and Russell Bellomy. He's done a tremendous job. I know his teammates have supported him. So we're excited about that."

Kansas State QB
Jake Waters as
a prep at Council Bluffs
St. Albert lead his
high school to two Iowa 1A State Titles,
Kansas State is lead by JUCO transfer Jake Waters, a 6-1 210 pound junior, who played at Iowa Western Community Council in 2012. Last year, Waters led his junior college to the national title. The Council Bluffs native lead his high school team to two state titles, as well.

Michigan has been in a lot of close games in 2013, after beginning the season with five straight wins, before the four overtime loss at Penn State. Hoke said, "No question, this football team is 11 points away from being 11-1. We haven't finished games and executed the way we needed to at the end of the games. If you look at Kansas State, they've been a dominant fourth-quarter team the last six football games. That's something that we've talked about. Our players understand that we need to do a better job of finishing football games. Also educating them about the success that Kansas State has had in the fourth quarter. They've scored 72 points and given up 31 in those last six games."

Since arriving in Ann Arbor for the 2011 season, Michigan has been transitioning from the spread attack of former coach, and present Arizona coach Rich Rodriquez, to a pro-set offense. The 2013 season was projected by many as a break-out season, but it was Michigan State, rather than Michigan, who broke out in the Big Ten.

Michigan has had trouble establishing a quality, consistent running game. In 2013, the offensive line has been struggling in many games. A running game could take some pressure off Morris in his first start. Senior Fitz Toussaint only averaged 3.5 yards per carry in 2013. Is Hoke turning to youngsters, when he said, "De'Veon (Smith), Derrick (Green), then Fitz (Toussaint). There's a good place in there for him also."

But, Hoke may look to pass in the bowl game, as he goes on to talk about Morris by saying, "number one, he's very athletic. He's a guy that can move around well in the pocket, can move up in the pocket. He's a guy who has a very strong arm. He can make all the throws. Obviously we recruited him at Michigan to be the quarterback at Michigan. This is a great opportunity. We have a lot of faith in how he goes about his business getting ready to play."

How will the offense and defense respond in the final game for the Michigan seniors? At the beginning of the season coach Hoke spoke a lot about the importance of seniors and leadership. He said this about winning the Buffalo Wild Wings game for the senior class, "it would be huge. It would be awesome. You want to win every game. Obviously that didn't happen. You want to be successful, do all these things. Going out with a win would feel phenomenal."

On the importance of finishing games in the fourth quarter, Hoke said ... "It's huge. This is a team that plays extremely well in the fourth quarter, Kansas State. We've done a good job throughout the year of getting consistently better. But we've fallen short a couple times."

On how big it would be to pick up a win, Hoke said ... "It's very important. It's not everything in the world. Obviously, you want to go out with a win. It's not detrimental to your program. But it's great for the seniors and putting the next team in position."

Kansas State QB Jake Waters running for daylight in 2013.
On the Kansas State quarterbacks' styles presenting a challenge Hoke said... "It does. It does. (Jake) Waters is a guy who probably gets short-selled a little bit on the athlete that he is. He's a good athlete who can run with the football also. But he's a guy they seem to be more comfortable with throwing the football. And (Daniel) Sams is a guy who is very athletic. He's like a tailback in there and will throw the ball, but most of the time they like to run it with him."

On Kansas State junior receiver Tyler Lockett Hoke said... We have great respect for Tyler Lockett. He's a guy who gets behind people in a lot of cases. Runs good routes. The comebacks they like, does a nice job of that. The timing between the quarterbacks and him, you can tell there's been a lot of work in it is off-season done."

Kansas State may know what is at stake tonight in Tempe

"If I'm not mistaken, it's been about 4,018 days since the last time K-State won a bowl game - 11 years exactly from today," Kansas State senior safety Ty Zimmerman said. "I know we're all ready for that streak to end. We've got a chance to do it tomorrow, so let's get it done."

The last bowl win by Kansas State was during the 2002 season, when Kansas State defeated Arizona State in the Holiday Bowl 34-27. Ironically, the Wildcats will be playing in the Sun Devils home stadium, so will karma favor Kansas State in Arizona?

The Big Ten may be stuck in the wake with the Michigan-Kansas State game. We shall see, who closes it out in the fourth quarter. Kansas State is the favorite, based on experience under center.