IOWA CITY — “Deserve” doesn’t have a lot to do with bowl pecking order. In the end, it’s fans in the seats and heads in hotel beds of the bowl city.
In that regard, Iowa could’ve been jumped by Michigan and/or Nebraska for a bowl berth even though the Hawkeyes finished the season with victories over both teams. That could’ve happened, but it didn’t.
Iowa (8-4) won its way to the Outback Bowl bid it received Sunday evening. The Hawkeyes will face Louisiana State (9-3) in the 2014 Outback Bowl. The game is played at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla. Kickoff is noon New Year’s Day on ESPN.
This is Iowa’s fourth appearance in the Outback, first since the Hawkeyes topped South Carolina in the 2009 game. This is LSU’s first trip to the Outback since the 1988 season.
The Tigers handed SEC Champion and national title game participant Auburn its only loss of the regular season and finished the season and finished 16th in the final BCS standings. Iowa received votes in the coaches and Associated Press polls on Sunday.
Iowa won its way to its fourth Outback appearance under Ferentz. The Hawkeyes won four of their last five regular-season games and were the logical pick for the Outback. Logic doesn’t always stick with bowls.
Iowa’s success on the field in 2013 won out over brand names.
“I’m sort of joking when when you talked about the brand of Michigan and the brand of Nebraska,” Iowa athletics director Gary Barta said Sunday night. “I’ll stand pretty tall on the brand of Iowa. Maybe we’re not as large as the state size and population, but at the end of the day, we talked earlier about proving it on the field.
“When we got to the resume table, we were able to say we beat Michigan and beat Nebraska. They both do have storied histories, but in 2013, the University of Iowa stood tall.”
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz leaped to an example from his time as Iowa’s offensive line coach in the 1980s. The Hawkeyes beat Ohio State on the field in 1983 and thought they were the logical pick for the Fiesta Bowl. The Fiesta ultimately picked Ohio State and Iowa went to the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla., where it was below freezing.
“Sometimes, it goes that way,” Ferentz said. “Our guys did a great job on the field and another factor is our fan support. It’s legendary, really, with the bowl people. We’ve traveled well to Tampa three times in recent history. I think that probably helped us down in Tampa.”
Iowa-LSU have met in a bowl not too long ago. It ended wildly. Iowa fans most definitely remember the 2005 Capital One Bowl. LSU fans have forgotten or have tried to forget.
Drew Tate found Warren Holloway to end it. It was Nick Saban’s last breath as LSU’s coach. A nearly 4-foot picture poster of the play is under glass at the Iowa football complex. The Hawkeyes topped LSU, 30-25, when Tate connected on a 56-yard touchdown pass with Holloway on the last play of the game. It was Holloway’s only career TD catch.
Ferentz was asked if he’s crossed paths with LSU coach Les Miles.
“He’s a Big Ten guy, played at Michigan and was an assistant there in the ’80s,” Ferentz said. “I don’t think I’ve ever met him. I’ve seen him on TV and on YouTube a bunch of times. Seems like every time I see him he’s on the winning side. Hopefully, we can do something about it. It won’t be easy.”
Miles is 94-24 record in his nine seasons in Baton Rouge, including the 2007 BCS championship. LSU’s losses have come against Georgia, Mississippi and Alabama.
Senior quarterback Zach Mettenberger, who was completing 64.9 percent of his passes for 3,082 yards and 22 touchdowns, will not play after suffering a knee injury. Running back Jeremy Hill, a 6-foot-2, 235-pounder, has rushed for 1,185 yards and 14 touchdowns, averaging 6.8 yards per carry.
Iowa has health issues of its own. Quarterback Jake Rudock sprained both knees in final five games, including missing much of the second half of the finale at Nebraska. Running back Mark Weisman bounced back from multiple injuries to finish as a factor in Iowa’s wins over Michigan and Nebraska. Cornerback B.J. Lowery wasn’t able to finish the Nebraska game.
“I think we should be good,” Ferentz said on injuries. “We’ll see where we are here in a couple of weeks. As we get closer, I’ll talk more specifically, but I think everyone is going to be good to go here.”
Ferentz acknowledged Sunday night that offensive tackle Brandon Scherff has the NFL choice in front of him. Scherff, a fourth-year junior, was named first-team all-Big Ten by league coaches last week.
“We’ve had conversations and we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it,” Ferentz said. “It’s not great secret he’ll have a choice. He’s a very good football player. We’ve had other guys who’ve had choices, too, historically. That’s a credit to him. There’s no urgency right now, when it’s time for him to comment on that, he’ll do so.
“It’s a credit to him. He’s done a great job.”
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