LSU learned Sunday that it’s heading to Tampa, Fla., on New Year’s Day to face Iowa in the Outback Bowl.
"[The players will] be as excited as they can be,” LSU coach Les Miles said. “They'll recognize that our opponent will be Iowa and they played everybody on their schedule extremely well. We'll have to play well in that game to get victory."
This marks LSU’s second ever appearance in the Outback Bowl, which typically invites SEC East teams. The Tigers last time there was a loss to Syracuse in 1988, and this also marks the first time LSU will meet the Hawkeyes since the 2005 Capital One Bowl, Nick Saban’s last game as the Tigers’ head coach.
Miles, then the coach at Oklahoma State, said he recalls watching the end of that game, which Iowa won on a touchdown pass as the clock expired. Shortly after it ended, reports started coming out that he’d be the next coach at LSU.
“I did watch that game,” Miles said. “I was following it because some preliminary conversation had been made, and I wanted to see how they’d finish. As I recall, a corner came off of coverage late in the game, and that led to an Iowa victory.”
As for what led LSU to the Outback Bowl, Miles said a different venue was an attractive aspect of playing in this bowl game.
"When you show up at a quality venue in an area where football's awfully important, our fans and friends will travel there because there's so much to do and the weather's great,” Miles said. “All of the new sights present a lure for our team that we'll look forward to."
LSU will seek a different end to this season than what happened last year in the Chick-fil-A Bowl against Clemson. A win would also give the Tigers’ its fourth consecutive 10-win season.
"Our football team's a little more mature at season's ending this year,” Miles said. “It'll be fine. We'll understand the need to play well in this game as we move forward."
LSU won’t begin practices until the week starting Dec. 16 as the players are busy with finals this week. Miles said the team will initially work on getting back to speed before implementing the game plan for Iowa.
Throughout the bowl preparation, Anthony Jennings will receive the starter’s reps at quarterback in place of the injured Zach Mettenberger. Miles said Mettenberger will undergo surgery in the coming weeks to repair an undisclosed knee injury, but he hopes Mettenberger makes a full recovery.
"The only thing I can tell you is that beyond rehabilitation, he'll be back to 100 percent,” Miles said. “There's no long-term significant damage to the knee. It appears to be a simple repair. It's hard to predict before the surgery, but it's the kind of injury that in a short amount of time in the grand scheme of things, he'll be ready to play."
As for Jennings, who led LSU on a game-winning 99-yard touchdown drive against Arkansas, he’ll benefit from the added practice time heading into the 2014 season, when he’ll be expected to take over the starting duties full-time.
"He's going to prepare right along,” Miles said. “We're not in a position where we have to change a lot. We'll run our offense the way it is. That'll benefit him. It'll be fun. Our guys will enjoy supporting Mettenberger by supporting the new quarterback."
On other injuries, Miles said Odell Beckham “wouldn’t miss a snap” if there was a game this week. Beckham missed most of the Arkansas game with what’s appeared to be a back injury. Miles did say that safety Corey Thompson will not be available for the bowl game, likely meaning freshman Rickey Jefferson will get another opportunity in the starting lineup.
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