Tuesday, December 31, 2013

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 ...

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