LSU will spend the holidays in sunny Tampa, Fla., for the first time in 25 years.
The Tigers will play Iowa in the Outback Bowl on New Year’s Day, the school announced Sunday night confirming an earlier report from The Advocate.
The Outback Bowl kickoff is set for noon Jan. 1 at Raymond James Stadium, home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. LSU will arrive at the bowl site Dec. 26 and will have its first bowl practice Dec. 16.
“I think our guys will enjoy a time in a place that’s a destination in and of itself in Tampa,” LSU coach Les Miles said. “These Tigers are looking forward to coming.”
It will be LSU’s second appearance in the Outback Bowl and first since losing to Syracuse following the 1988 season.
The Tigers will start true freshman backup quarterback Anthony Jennings in the bowl, Miles confirmed Sunday night. Jennings will make his first career start in place of Zach Mettenberger.
Mettenberger suffered a season-ending knee injury in the regular season finale against Arkansas and is expected to rehab in Baton Rouge and “be around” the team during bowl practice,” Miles said. He may even travel with the squad to Tampa.
No. 14 LSU (9-3), 5-3) is just the second SEC Western Division team invited to the Outback Bowl in the previous 16 years. The Outback shares the third pick, after the BCS and Capital One Bowl, of SEC teams with the Cotton Bowl but gets first preference for SEC Eastern Division teams.
LSU becomes just the third Western Division squad to get invited to the Outback since 1996. The Tigers will join West foes Auburn (twice) and Alabama (once) to have played in the Outback in that time frame.
“I think our fans and friends will travel there because there’s so much to do and certainly the weather’s great for the holidays,” Miles said. “I think all of the new sights present a lure to our team that we’ll look forward to.”
Making its fourth appearance in the Outback, Iowa (8-4, 5-3 Big Ten) finished tied with Nebraska for second place in the Big Ten’s Legends Division, which Rose Bowl-bound Michigan State won.
LSU and Iowa’s only previous meeting came in the Capital One Bowl following the 2004 season, a thrilling 30-25 Hawkeyes win. Iowa quarterback Drew Tate completed a 56-yard game-winning touchdown pass to Warren Holloway as time expired to send LSU and then-coach Nick Saban to a loss. It was Saban’s final game as LSU’s coach.
Miles, then-head coach at Oklahoma State, said he watched some of the game from a bowl site. News broke hours after the game that Miles would replace Saban as LSU’s coach.
“I was kind of following it because there was some preliminary conversation” with LSU about the job, Miles said.
Speculation for LSU’s bowl destination has swirled for the last couple of weeks. On Sunday morning, the Cotton, Outback and Gator bowls seemed the most likely spots.
The Outback Bowl held all of the cards. The bowl passed on Missouri, forcing the Cotton to take MU. The Cotton, as this year’s safety net for the SEC championship game loser, was contractually obligated to invite Missouri.
Ultimately, it seems, the Outback chose LSU over Texas A&M and Georgia.
The SEC got two teams into BCS bowl games: Auburn in the national title against Florida State and Alabama in the Sugar Bowl against Oklahoma. The Capital One Bowl, which gets first selection of SEC teams after the BCS, selected South Carolina. A&M will play Duke in the Chik-fil-A, which gets the pick after the Cotton and Outback, and Georgia meets Nebraska in the Gator Bowl.
LSU fans traveling to Tampa will likely get to see a first.
If the Tigers win the Outback Bowl to finish 10-3, it will be their fourth straight season of 10 wins or more, a school record.