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Outback Bowl: 5 things to watch

[ 0 ] December 31, 2013 |

BY RICK BROWN AND ANDREW LOGUE

1. THE PURPLE PASS RUSH

Greg Davis, Iowa’s offensive coordinator, compared the Tigers’ defensive front to Ohio State, in terms of athleticism and the way LSU’s interior linemen push the pocket. That may not be a bad thing for the Hawkeyes. Sophomore quarterback Jake Rudock found success early against the Buckeyes, finishing with 245 yards and three touchdowns. Jermauria Rasco, a 6-foot-3, 255-pound end, leads the Tigers with four sacks and eight hurries this season. Defensive tackle Anthony Johnson, 6-3, 294, has bullied his way to three sacks. Iowa, meanwhile, allowed just 12 sacks for a total of 51 yards, fewest in the Big Ten Conference.

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2. DOUBLE TROUBLE

LSU receivers Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr., have been more than a handful for opponents this season. “We’re playing a team now that’s got basically two NFL receivers,” Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. “Two outstanding players.” Iowa State’s Quenton Bundrage (seven catches, 146 yards) is the only receiver to rack up more than 94 yards against the Hawkeyes this season. Landry is averaging 97.6 yards a game, Beckham 93.1. Together, that’s more than Iowa’s allowed all season through the air (182.4). If they get their average against Iowa’s secondary Wednesday, it could be a long day for the Hawkeyes.

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3. POINT OF ATTACK

Iowa must establish a running game if it wants to control clock and make some noise with the passing game. Getting Mark Weisman to 1,000 yards for the season (he needs 62 more) is a good place to start for offensive tackles Brandon Scherff and Brett Van Sloten, center Austin Blythe and guards Conor Boffeli and Jordan Walsh, plus the tight ends in the formation. Iowa is averaging 188.6 rushing yards a game, 40 more than LSU is yielding. The line also has to keep the Tigers off quarterback Jake Rudock. Iowa has allowed a Big Ten-low 12 sacks this season. LSU’s defense has 24.

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4. BREAKING IT BIG

Beckham Jr. received the Paul Hornung Award as the nation’s most versatile player, based largely on his performance as a kick returner. He netted 806 yards on 30 kickoffs this season (an average of 26.9). He also covered 141 yards as a punt returner, and returned a missed field goal 109 yards against Alabama-Birmingham. The Hawkeyes can counter with Kevonte Martin-Manley, who led the Big Ten with an average of 16.2 yards on punt returns. Iowa was ninth in the conference when it came to kickoff coverage, with an average net of 37.5 yards and 30 touchbacks in 67 kicks.

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5. TRICKERATION

Earlier this season, Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz told reporters he might never try to return a punt again. That was after opponent successfully pulled off a fake for the sixth straight time, dating to 2010. That streak ended when the Hawkeyes foiled Nebraska’s fake punt attempt in the regular-season finale. Now, Iowa will have to be on its toes against “The Mad Hatter” That’s the nickname given to LSU coach Les Miles, who has a knack for pulling off unorthodox moves. Miles is not afraid to roll the dice deep in his own end. He’s done it against Alabama, Florida and other SEC foes.

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Category: Iowa Hawkeyes Football

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