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Outback Bowl 2014 Preview: Iowa Hawkeyes vs. LSU Tigers

If you say you expected either of these teams to be here early in the season, you're probably lying. But what will decide this improbable match-up?

Stacy Revere

Outback Bowl: Iowa Hawkeyes vs. LSU Tigers
Wednesday, 1 p.m. ET, ESPN

Did you realize that Iowa is going bowling this year? No, not at the local lanes -- they're going to the postseason. That didn't seem all that likely when the Hawkeyes opened the season with a 30-27 loss to Northern Illinois that sparked a slew of Kirk Ferentz contract jokes, followed by a too-close-for-comfort win against FCS opponent Missouri State and a six-point escape at Iowa State. Instead, it seemed like the bottom was ready to fall out.

Only, it never really did. Iowa recovered -- sort of -- by blasting Western Michigan and then soundly defeating Minnesota on the road. In the end, the only teams Iowa would lose to over the last 11 games of the season were against Michigan State, at Ohio State and against Wisconsin. Those also happen to be the three best teams in the B1G, so there's really no shame in losing to that slate.

LSU might be slightly surprised to be in the Outback Bowl as well, though for entirely different reasons. And the fact that the Outback usually picks a team from the SEC East is really at the bottom of the list. One of the enduring questions about this LSU team is how an offense with Zach Mettenberger, two of the best wideouts in the conference and one of the best stables of running backs in the country ended up with three regular-season losses.

Some of it was bad luck. The Tigers lost at Georgia and at Ole Miss by three, which just happens to be about the bonus awarded to home team in betting lines. And the Bayou Bengals ended the year negative in the turnover department. Both the defense and the offense are ranked in the top third of the nation in most categories, but the Tigers still ended up 9-3. Curious.

The game likely comes down to whether the Hawkeyes, ranked seventh in the nation in total defense, can stop the LSU offensive attack. If they can, then the B1G could take the Outback Bowl. But if they don't, it's going to be hard for the Hawkeyes offense to keep up.

LSU 32, Iowa 17