The Iowa Hawkeyes Versus The LSU Tigers: The Tale Of The Tape

Ronald Martinez

Let's check some stats.

LET'S SEE HOW IOWA AND LSU COMPARE STATISTICALLY. Before we jump into all of this, please remember that LSU will be without their quarterback Zach Mettenberger for the game in Tampa. He had an outstanding senior season for LSU compiling 3,082 pass yards while completing 64.9% of his passes. He threw for 22 touchdowns on the season to only eight interceptions finishing with a quarterback rating of 171.4.

Mettenberger finished 2012 with a rating of 128.3 and had a 12 to 7 touchdown to interception ratio. This season was a big improvement that likely is the result of Les Miles hiring Cam Cameron as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in February. LSU will replace Mettenberger with Anthony Jennings. He's a freshman quarterback with only 10 pass attempts on the season.

THE STATS.

STAT IOWA RANK LSU RANK
Passing offense 200.4 ypg 92 265.1 ypg 33
Rushing offense 186.6 ypg 41 200.8 ypg 35
1st downs O 245 76 272 46
3rd down conversion O 44.8% 35 58.6% 1
Sacks allowed 12 11 21 T45
Red Zone offense 78% 96 83.3% 57
Scoring offense 27.3 74 37 ppg 21
Passing efficiency 126.21 75 171.6 3
Interceptions thrown 13 T74 8 T25
Total offense 389.0 ypg 79 465.9 ypg 26
Fewest penalty yds per game 34.58 14 56.58 97
1st downs D 192 6 235 T37
Passes intercepted 12 T59 9 T89
Pass yds allowed 182.4 11 200.8 17
Red Zone defense 84.6% T78 84.6% T78
Rushing defense 120.8 17 148.8 43
Scoring defense 18.8 11 22.7 T30
Sacks 20 T85 24 T61
Pass efficiency defense 116.23 25 119.74 37
Tackles for a loss 73 T54 60 104
Turnover margin +1 T54 -2 T72
3rd down defense 34.3% 24 39.1% 59
Total defense 303.2 7 349.7 20
Net punting 37.79 38 37.76 43
Punt returns 15 ypr 5 8.05 ypr 62
Kickoff returns 20.25 ypr 85 25.82 ypr 4

NOW, LET'S LOOK AT STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE. Using the Sagarin rankings, LSU's SOS ranks 27th and Iowa's 41st. LSU was (1-1) versus the Sagarin Top 10 with a win over Auburn and loss against Alabama. Iowa is (0-2) against the Sagarin Top 10 with losses to Michigan State and Ohio State. LSU is (2-2) against the Sagarin Top 30 and Iowa (0-3).

Using Football Outsiders F/+ combined ratings, LSU played the #47, #115, #102, #4, #20, #43, #46, #35, FCS, #2, #22 and #87 teams in their rankings. Iowa played #61, FCS, #81, #117, #48, #9, #5, #57, #10, #114, #32 and #45 ranked teams. Looking at the S&P+ defensive rankings, LSU played the #12, #123, #97, #32, #46, #17, #13, #20, FCS, #4, #67 and #81 ranked teams. Iowa played the #99, FCS, #83, #108, #54, #2, #40, #52, #5, #93, #47 and #70 ranked defenses. Finally, using the S&P+ for offensive rankings, LSU played the #94, #85, #99, #8, #7, #62, #100, #49, FCS, #10, #5 and #68 rated offenses. Iowa played the #32, FCS, #90, #121, #75, #66, #3, #51 #22, #115, #40 and #46 rated offenses. That's a lot of numbers, I know, but remember the last three or four in each category. We'll get to that a little later.

STICKING WITH FOOTBALL OUTSIDERS. Let's see how each team compares in some advanced stats (visit Football Ousiders for a full explanation of statistics):

STAT IOWA RANK LSU RANK
Overall F/+ 15.9% 28 23.9% 18
Offensive F/+ 2.7% 52 18.3% 9
Defensive F/+ 11.5% 17 3.3% 45
Special Teams F/+ 1.7% 38 2.4% 25
Overall S&P+ 232.9 23 237.7 20
Offensive S&P+ 100.1 60 127.5 11
O Play efficiency 103 58 125.6 8
O Drive efficiency 97.1 62 129.4 10
Defensive S&P+ 132.8 10 110.2 48
D Play efficiency 122 11 109.2 33
D Drive efficiency 143.7 10 111.1 56
D Standard down S&P+ 124.8 8 108.6 39
D Pass down S&P+ 119 24 117.7 26
D Rush down S&P+ 135.9 6 105.8 52
O Standard down S&P+ 103.5 57 117.9 19
O Rush S&P+ 103.8 58 115.3 24
O Pass down S&P+ 105.2 53 152.3 3
O Pass S&P+ 108.4 43 141.6 5
Starting field position 68 23 68.9 42
Opponent starting FP 70.5 59 72.2 24
Short field drives .177 6 .109 68
Opponent short field drives .099 47 .106 56
Long field drives .202 47 .200 45
Opponent long field drives .221 51 .221 52

To state the obvious, this game will be Iowa's defense versus LSU's offense. Zach Mettenberger will be a huge loss to LSU as their passing game is one of the best in the country. Let's continue.

FURTHER FUN WITH NUMBERS. We can get more stats! Stats!!! We'll forget home and away splits because this is a neutral field. We'll forget national rankings for stats too and just see how each team compares to the other.

STAT IOWA LSU
Rushing offense in wins 401-1797-4.48-16Td 370-2176-5.88-29Td
Rushing offense in loses 118-465-3.94-1Td 102-234-2.29-5Td
Rushing offense in conference 301-1286-4.27-9Td 317-1422-4.49-22Td
Rushing offense in non-con 218-976-4.48-8Td 155-988-6.37-12Td
Rush offense vs ranked 118-465-3.94-1Td 166-672-4.05-9Td
Rush offense vs unranked 401-2797-4.48-16Td 306-1738-5.69-25Td
Rush offense vs winning FBS 251-1034-4.12-6Td 201-786-3.91-11Td
Rush offense vs losing FBS 211-930-4.41-7Td 235-1292-5.50-19Td
Rush offense Sept 263-1222-4.65-9Td 199-961-4.83-14Td
Rush offense Oct 84-289-3.44-1Td 149-844-5.66-14Td
Rush offense Nov 172-751-4.37-7Td 124-605-4.88-6Td
Pass offense in wins 118/188-62.8%-1484-12Td-6Int 140/213-65.7%-2294-18Td 5Int
Pass offense in loses 82/157-52.2%-921-6Td-7Int 58/93-62.4%-887-5Td-3Int
Pass offense in conference 135/239-56.5%-1608-13Td-10Int 135/210-64.3%-2033-11Td-6Int
Pass offense in non-con 65/106-61.3%-797-5Td-3Int 63/96-65.6%-1148-12Td-2Int
Pass offense vs ranked 82/157-52.2%-921-6Td-7Int 64/102-62.7%-1035-7Td-1Int
Pass offense vs unranked 118/188-62.8%-1484-12Td-6Int 134/204-65.7%-2146-16Td-7Int
Pass offense vs winning FBS 125/229-54.6%-1504-11Td-11Int 83/135-61.5%-1309-8Td-4Int
Pass offense vs losing FBS 56/88-63.6%-708-7Td-1Int 98/145-67.6%-1532-12Td-2Int
Pass offense in Sept 80/131-61.1%-1015-6Td-4Int 83/129-64.3%-1409-13Td-1Int
Pass offense in Oct 64/107-59.8%-655-6Td-4Int 70/105-66.7%-1106-6Td-6Int
Pass offense in Nov 56/107-52.3%-735-6Td-5Int 45/72-62.5%-666-4Td-1Int
Rush defense in wins 240-660-2.75-1Td 316-1221-3.86-9Td
Rush defense in loses 175-789-4.51-4Td 121-565-4.67-5Td
Rush defense vs conf 306-1083-3.54-5Td 301-1362-4.52-10Td
Rush defense vs non-con 109-366-3.36-0Td 136-424-3.12-4Td
Rush defense vs ranked 175-789-4.51-4Td 148-677-4.57-Td
Rush defense vs unranked 240-660-2.75-1Td 289-1109-3.84-8Td
Rush D vs FBS winning 268-968-3.61-5Td 191-853-4.47-8Td
Rush D vs FBS losing 124-411-3.31-0Td 211-841-3.99-6Td
Rush defense Sept 136-396-2.91-0Td 189-741-3.92-8Td
Rush defense Oct 140-633-4.52-2Td 154-595-3.86-3Td
Rush defense Nov 139-420-3.02-3Td 94-450-4.79-3Td
Pass defense in wins 127/244-52%-1271-11Td-10Int 145/273-53.1%-1584-6Td-8Int
Pass defense in loss 83/131-63.4%-918-9Td-2Int 65/95-68.4%-826-8Td-1Int
Pass defense vs conf 133/227-58.6%-1392-13Td-6Int 149/257-58%-1833-13Td7Int
Pass defense vs non-con 77-148-52%-797-7Td-6Int 61/111-55%-577-1Td-2Int
Pass D vs ranked 83-131-63.4%-918-9Td-2Int 67/128-52.3%-925-8Td5Int
Pass D vs unranked 127/244-52%-1271-11Td-10Int 143/240-59.6%-1485-6Td-4Int
Pass D vs FBS winning 127/220-57.7%-1350-13Td-6Int 98/169-58%-1274-9Td-5Int
Pass D vs FBS losing 69/125-55.2%-712-6Td-5Int 95/170-55.9%-1030-5Td3Int
Pass D Sept 89/172-51.7%-932-8Td-8Int 81/149-54.4-993-5Td4Int
Pass D Oct 58/85-68.2%-603-5Td-1Int 80/129-62%-836-3Td2Int
Pass D Nov 63/118-53.4%-654-7Td-3Int 49/90-54.4%-581-6Td3Int
3rd Down O in wins 59/119 49.58% 60/102 58.82%
3rd Down O in losses 23/63 36.51% 22/38 57.89%
3rd Down O vs FBS win 41/107 38.32% 38/68 55.88%
3rd Down O vs FBS lose 34/61 55.74% 39/65 60%
3rd Down O Sept 42/80 52.5% 36/61 59.02%
3rd Down O Oct 18/42 42.86% 21/38 55.26%
3rd Down O Nov 22/60 36.67% 25/41 60.98%
1st Downs Rush 123 112
1st Downs Pass 107 141
1st Down Penalty 15 19
Red Zone conversions 39/50-78%-26Td-13Fg 45/54-83.3%-35Td-10Fg
TFL in wins 55-156yds 6.88 TFL/g 48-226yds 5.33 TFL/g
TFL in losses 18-44yds 4.5 TFL/g 12-38yds 4 TFL/g
TFL Sept 22-64yds 4.4 TFL/g 21-91yds 4.2 TFL/g
TFL Oct 18-40yds 6 TFL/g 28-120yds 7.0 TFL/g
TFL Nov 33-96yds 8.25 TFL/g 11-53 3.67 TFL/g
Scoring offense in wins 31.8 40.2
Scoring offense in loss 18.5 27.3
Scoring offense vs conf 23.4 32.3
Scoring offense vs non-con 35.3 46.5
Scoring o vs FBS winners 22.7 30.2
Scoring o vs FBS losers 35.3 40.8
Scoring offense Sept 32.8 42.8
Scoring offense Oct 18.3 37
Scoring offense Nov 27.3 27.3
Scoring defense in wins 13.4 18.1
Scoring defense in loss 29.5 36.3
Scoring defense vs conf 19.6 24.9
Scoring defense vs non-con 17.0 18.3
Scoring d vs FBS win rec 23.3 28.0
Scoring d vs FBS Losers 12.0 19.3
Scoring defense Sept 15.0 24.4
Scoring defense Oct 23.3 18.8
Scoring defense Nov 20.0 25.0
3rd Down D in W 34/110 30.91% 46/130 35.38%
3rd Down D in L 27/68 39.71% 20/39 51.28%
3rd Down D vs FBS winners 38/109 34.86% 31/70 44.29%
3rd Down D vs FBS Losers 22/59 37.29% 31/83 37.35%
3rd Down D Sept 18/71 25.35% 26/71 36.62%
3rd Down D Oct 24/47 51.06% 25/62 40.32%
3rd Down D Nov 19/60 31.67% 15/36 41.67%

PLAYER STATS. Let's look at both team's leaders on the season (source):

Rushing leaders -

Iowa (click to enlarge)

Iowarush_medium

LSU (click to enlarge)

Lsurush_medium

Receiving leaders -

Iowa (click to enlarge)

Iowarec_medium

LSU (click to enlarge)

Lsurec_medium

Passing leaders -

Iowa (click to enlarge)

Iowapass_medium

LSU (click to enlarge)

Lsupass_medium

The thing that jumps out looking at player stats is the distribution. Mark Weisman and Jeremy Hill is each team's horse. Their carries on the season almost double the next back. Weisman's heavy workload in the early season contribute to his 17.33 carries per game, almost 1.5 more than Hill. We'll look closer at the real picture when we view the November splits.

There's two clear-cut receiving options for LSU as Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. each have over 50 receptions on the season. They both eclipsed 1,000 yards and combined hauled in 18 touchdown receptions. Iowa's C.J. Fiedorowicz has the third most receptions of Iowa pass catchers. LSU's tight end Dillion Gordon has 12 receptions but for only 88 yards.

LET'S LOOK FURTHER INTO SPLITS. Now that we've looked at the stats for the whole season, let's take a closer look at the last month to get a better idea of what these teams truly are heading into the bowl game. Iowa played Wisconsin, Purdue, Michigan and Nebraska. LSU had two bye weeks following a game with FCS Furman sandwiched around Alabama. They finished with Texas A&M and Arkansas. Note the stat rankings for the opponents above.

Because teams evolve or injuries happen during the course of a season, it's best to look at the most recent games for a better idea of that team's identity. Each team played their toughest opponent of this period at the beginning of these stats (Iowa vs Wisconsin November 2nd and LSU vs. Alabama November 9th).

Passing offense -

Iowa (click to enlarge)

Iowapass4_medium

LSU (click to enlarge)

Lsupass3_medium

Rushing offense -

Iowa (click to enlarge)

Iowarush4_medium

LSU (click to enlarge)

Lsurush3_medium

Passing defense -

Iowa (click to enlarge)

Iowapassd4_medium

LSU (click to enlarge)

Lsupassd3_medium

Rushing defense -

Iowa (click to enlarge)

Iowarushd4_medium

LSU (click to enlarge)

Lsurushd3_medium

LET'S GO FURTHER AND EXAMINE SOME PLAYER SPLITS FOR THIS SAME TIME FRAME.

Iowa - Mark Weisman -rushing

Mw4_medium

Iowa - Jordan Canzeri -rushing

Jcan4_medium

Iowa - Jake Rudock - passing

Jake4_medium

Iowa - Kevonte Martin-Manley - receiving

Kmm4_medium

Iowa - C.J. Fiedorowicz - receiving

Cjf4_medium

Iowa - Tevaun Smith - receiving

Tsmith4_medium

LSU - Jeremy Hill - rushing

Jhill3_medium

LSU - Terrence Magee - rushing

Tmagee3_medium

LSU - Jarvis Landry - receiving

Landry3_medium

LSU - Odell Beckham Jr. - receiving

Obj3_medium

LSU - Anthony Jennings - passing

Jenn3_medium

WHAT CAN WE DRAW FROM THIS? Iowa's Mark Weisman suffered an injury mid-season and after the second bye week emerged again healthy at the end of the year. Weisman had only 18 carries for 45 yards in games against Purdue and Wisconsin. Against Michigan and Nebraska he had 41 carries for 160 yards and three touchdowns. That equates to almost 20% of his season carries and 17% of his season's yards in those last two games.

With Weisman's injury Jordan Canzeri emerged. In the second half against Wisconsin he rushed five times for 58 yards. In the last four games of the year he had 63 carries for 332 yards and one touchdown. That's 74% of his season yard total.

Still, Iowa's rushing game struggled compared to the season average. Iowa rushed for over 200 yards as a team in the first five games of the season. Against Purdue the Hawks had a season high 318 but 110, 168 and 155 against Wisconsin, Michigan and Nebraska.

Iowa's rush offense averaged less than four yards per carry three of the last four games but Jake Rudock improved. He missed the end of three games due to injury or blowout but still had a yards per pass attempt of over eight in the last three games. He also had six touchdowns to three interceptions (all versus Michigan) and had QB ratings of 173.22, 132.25 and 174.56.

Rudock's improvement was due in part to the emergence of Tevaun Smith in the Iowa passing game. Smith ended the season with 24 receptions and nine came in three of the final four games. Kevonte Martin-Manely got off to a hot start in 2013 but disappeared in the middle of the schedule. He, along with C.J. Fiedorowicz, collected 16 passes and four of Rudock's six touchdown passes over the last four games.

LSU's running backs got the best of both worlds. Against Alabama, Hill and Magee were held to 73 yards on 22 carries. Against Texas A&M, they combined for 27 carries for 225 yards. Hill carried the ball 20 times against Arkansas, only the third time he'd eclipsed the 20 carry mark all season. MaGee added two touchdowns against the Razorbacks on seven carries.

Terrence Magee's season looks similar to Canzeri. He finished the season with 614 yards and 346 of those came in the season's last four games. Magee has found the endzone scoring five times in that four game span.

Odell Beckham Jr. finished with 1,117 yards but most of those came before November. In the season's final three games, Beckham had nine receptions for 108 yards and zero touchdowns. In those same three games, Jarvis Landry collected 17 passes for 290 yards and two touchdowns. Landry has been consistent all season never ending a game without at least four receptions.

Anthony Jennings is the wild card. We got a small glimpse of his ability when he replaced Mettenberger for the games final minutes against Arkansas. With 3:04 to go in the game, Jennings took over quarterback and had 99 yards to get LSU the win. His first play was a rush for two yards giving the offense some breathing room. He drove the team to midfield completing 3/5 passes and added a 21 yard rush. Mettenberger is credited with 34 carries on the season for negative 133 yards. He didn't run the ball, Jennings can. That brings a new dimension for which Iowa has to prepare for. Jennings eventually found Travin Dural for a 49-yard touchdown pass. Here's the highlights of LSU's comeback win over Arkansas.

11/29/2013 Arkansas vs LSU Football Highlights (via SECDigitalNetwork)

DO WE LEARN ANYTHING HERE? I did my best to not cherry pick stats to support an argument. The purpose here is to display the comparison of each team and allow you to form your own opinions.

That being said, I have an opinion of my own. If anything is clear it is that this game is about Iowa's strength (defense) against LSU's strength (offense). That stat that jumps out the most is LSU's third down conversion offense. It tells me the Hawkeyes will have to be stout on first and second down forcing LSU and their new quarterback into third and long situations. Zach Mettenberger had a fantastic season and it's fair to assume that LSU will suffer a statistical drop-off offensively without him. Iowa can't allow Jeremy Hill big gains and Anthony Jennings the chance to get comfortable in the pocket.

I think the loss at QB makes LSU one dimensional. Their defense doesn't scare anyone and their performance against teams with a winning record is reason enough to believe Iowa can win this game.

Still, Iowa has lost to each Top 25 team they'be played this season. The worst being dominated by Wisconsin. This game could easily look a lot like that Wisconsin game in Iowa City. LSU just needs to pound the ball with their running game and ask Jennings to be a game manager and pass when the time is right for play action.

But, LSU's defense is not Wisconsin's defense and Iowa should put up 24+ points in this game. Iowa's defense has a knack for timely turnovers giving their own offense a short field. Iowa has to win the turnover battle and capitalize when LSU makes mistakes because Jennings will make one or two.

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