The Iowa Hawkeyes (8-4, 5-3 Big Ten) and no. 16 LSU Tigers (9-3, 5-3 SEC) are going into the Outback Bowl fielding rosters that are separated by only one —albeit, important — factor, athleticism.
Athleticism was touched on in the running backs preview and it was evident that LSU has a superior tailback that’s most likely going in the first round of the 2014 NFL draft. The athleticism for LSU however, doesn’t stop in the backfield and becomes even more noticeable when the receiving corps enters the discussion.
The LSU Tigers have two 1,000-yard receivers in Jarvis Landry (1,172) and Odell Beckham (1,117).
Landry seemed to be injured quarterback Zach Mettenberger’s go-to receiver because of his 75 receptions and 10 touchdowns but Beckham wasn’t too far behind.
Beckham surpassed the 1,000-yard mark with just 57 receptions and added eight touchdowns.
None of Iowa’s receivers finished with over 40 receptions or 400 yards receiving. Some might assume that sophomore quarterback Jake Rudock was spreading the ball around to multiple receivers but that wouldn’t necessarily be true.
The Hawkeyes’ passing offense struggled all season long to find a consistent rhythm, which is why there isn’t a clear go-to-receiver.
Kevonte Martin-Manley (39 receptions) is a reliable slot receiver. Tevaun Smith (24 receptions) has break-away speed and is 6-foot-2 but doesn’t have much game experience. And tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz (26 receptions) is the ideal red-zone target at 6-foot-7 — he finished the season with a team-leading six touchdown catches — but has mainly under-performed since being billed the “next great Iowa tight end” in 2012.
Iowa has a number of receivers for Rudock to throw to and LSU has talent all over its offense but will be missing an integral piece when the two face off in the Outback Bowl: a quarterback.
Landry and Beckham accounted for more than half of Mettenberger’s 3,000 passing yards and are also responsible for 18 of his 22 touchdowns.
If the Tigers’ backup quarterback, Anthony Jennings, can’t get the ball into the hands of his athletic wide receivers, LSU’s passing game will struggle to produce points.
Iowa has receivers with speed — Smith, Damon Powell and dual-threat tailback Damon Bullock — in its arsenal but will need to use them properly because LSU’s defensive unit is more of a threat than a majority of the defenses in the Big Ten — minus Ohio State and Michigan State.
Rudock and the Hawkeyes offense know they aren’t flashy and will rely on head coach Kirk Ferentz and offensive coordinator Greg Davis to design more creative plays on offense come Jan. 1.
If Ferentz and Davis can’t, then the Tigers and head coach Les Miles won’t be bothered by not having their starting quarterback under center because they have a slew of other reliable players to get the ball into the endzone.
For more on Iowa leading up to the Outback Bowl check out the Hawkeyes team page on isportsweb