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The Outback Bowl: LSU Tigers vs. Iowa Hawkeyes Pick-Odds-Prediction 1/1/14

Iowa Hawkeyes (8-4) at LSU Tigers (9-3)

College Football: Wednesday, January 1, 2014 at 1:00 pm (Raymond James Stadium)

The Line: LSU Tigers -7.5 -- Over/Under: 49 See the Latest Odds

TV: ESPN

Storyline: #16 LSU looks to break its three-year postseason drought against Iowa and one of the nation’s stingiest defenses in the Outback Bowl New Year’s Day.

The Breakdown: The Tigers stormed out of the gate in 2013, taking their first four games in convincing fashion, including wins over #20 TCU in the opener and Auburn in week 4, before stumbling 44-41 in a back and forth shootout at then #9 Georgia. LSU would rebound to take two straight before losing at Ole Miss and top-ranked Alabama in two of their next three. The Tigers followed with their best defensive effort of the season against Johnny Manziel and #12 Texas A&M, holding the standout QB to just 16-of-41 passing for 224 yards and 1 touchdown and  54 yards rushing, before closing the season with a 31-27 victory over Arkansas.

The Outback Bowl: LSU Tigers vs. Iowa Hawkeyes Pick-Odds-Prediction 1/1/14

Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Spor

LSU owns the nation’s 27th-ranked offense (465.9 YDs), its 34th-ranked passing game (265.1 YDs), 35th-ranked ground game (200.8 YDs) and 23rd-ranked scoring offense (37.0 points per). Senior QB Zach Mettenberger (3,082 YDs, 22 TDs, 8 INTs) got the offense to this point, but went down with a season-ending injury in the 4th quarter against Arkansas. True freshman Anthony Jennings (99 YDs, 1 TD), who saw mop-up duty in three games this season, will get the nod. He’ll be joined in the backfield by sophomore RB Jeremy Hill (1,185 YDs, 14 TDs), the country’s 27th-rated rusher, and quite possibly the nation’s best stable of running backs in junior Terrance Magee (614 YDs, 8 TDs), senior Alfred Blue (317 YDs, 1 TD) and junior Kenny Hilliard (307 YDs, 7 TDs). Les Miles loves to rotate backs, so they’re all likely to get some touches. As one of the nation’s most balanced offenses, the Tigers also boast two of the best receivers in college football in juniors Jarvis Landry (75 REC, 1,172 YDs, 10 TDs) and Odell Beckham (57 REC, 1,117 YDs) the FBS’s 18th and 25th best pass catchers, respectively. On the defensive side, LSU ranks 30th in scoring defense, allowing 22.7 points per contest.

Meanwhile, Iowa’s road to the Outback Bowl had similar peaks and valleys. After dropping their season opener 30-27 to Jordan Lynch and Northern Illinois on a last minute field goal, the Hawkeyes regrouped to take their next four, including wins over Iowa State and Minnesota, with largely stout defense that allowed an average of just 11.25 points a game. Iowa would drop its next two, however, to Big Ten powers Michigan State and Ohio State before closing the season with wins in three of its final four, including a 38-17 rout of Nebraska in the season finale.

The Hawkeyes bring the country’s 81st-ranked offense, 92nd-ranked passing game (200.4 YDs), 43rd-ranked ground game (188. 6 YDs) and 77th-ranked scoring offense (27.3 points per). They’re led by redshirt sophomore QB Jake Rudock (2,281 YDs, 18 TDs, 12 INTs) and junior RB Mark Weisman (938 YDs, 7 TDs). Defense is where this team shines, though, ranking 11th nationally in scoring defense, allowing a stifling 18.8 points per contest and a 7th best 4.61 yards per play. This unit’s standouts include senior linebackers Anthony Hitchens (102 Tackles, 2 Sacks, 1 INT), James Morris (98 Tackles, 6 Sacks, 1 INT) and Christian Kirksey (97 Tackles, 1.5 Sacks, 1 INT).

Rick’s Pick: The line in this matchup currently favors LSU by 7.5 points with a 49 point total. Iowa has one darn good defense, but so does LSU. Always. And while Jennings is green, Miles has so much next-level talent at the running back position, who’s under center won’t really matter. Has it ever under Miles? Look for the Tigers to cover.

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LSU -7.5

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