LSU WILL BE WITHOUT SENIOR QUARTERBACK ZACH METTENBERGER THIS OUTBACK BOWL. We've mentioned this before and surely by now this isn't new news to you. Here at BHGP, we've also taken the time to compare nearly every stat between Iowa and LSU with the caveat that Mettenberger will not play and LSU's stats may not serve as prologue for what's to come in Tampa. LSU will start Anthony Jennings at quarterback. Previously, I had mistakenly called Jennings a red-shirt freshman. This is not the case as Jennings was a 2013 recruit and joined the LSU team for spring semester early this year.
What can we expect from LSU's freshman QB? We know Jennings was the #6 rated dual-threat quarterback in the 2013 recruiting class (per Rivals). He was considered the 12th best player in the state of Georgia and 145th nationally. In his senior season at Marietta High School, Jennings completed 61% of his passes for 1925 yards and 19 touchdowns. He also rushed the ball 152 times for 673 yards and 10 touchdowns. Here's his high school highlight video:
Anthony Jennings, #12 - QB, Class of 2013 (via MariettaBlueDevils)
SO, JENNINGS CAN RUN. It shouldn't be a surprise that LSU is working on the read option. While the option will find its way into the Tiger's playbook, it's unlikely that it becomes their identity. That would be a complete makeover and in a short amount of time. Jennings' speed will be used other ways than the read option and that's where there's reason for concern for Iowa.
METTENBERGER LEFT THE ARKANSAS GAME IN THE FOURTH QUARTER. Jennings took over the offense backed up inside the LSU five and drove the Tigers to midfield before hitting Travin Dural for a 49-yard touchdown pass. The score would prove to be the game winner and LSU escaped their rival Arkansas. Here's the YouTube of Jennings behind center (note: Jennings highlights begin at the 13:20 mark):
YOU SEE IT? If not, here's a better look:
HE CAN MAKE PLAYS WITH HIS FEET. Even in passing situations and when protection breaks down, Jennings is able to get positive yards for the offense. He isn't the most accurate passer yet but he makes up for it with his elusiveness in the pocket and ability to get free and let the wide receivers work to find space.
I EXPECT LSU TO STILL BE A RUN FIRST OFFENSE. Their strength is their top two running backs Jeremy Hill and Terrence Magee. LSU will use a shotgun formation and also variations of the I-formation, or power running game. If Iowa can't stop LSU's rushing attack from the I-formation, expect a lot of play action bootlegs and roll-outs for Jennings. He'll likely get a moving pocket from the shotgun formation too, giving him both run and pass options. LSU has, perhaps, the best duo of wide receivers in the country. They won't stick to just roll-outs and drag routes off the play action. They will go deep down field to either of their two speedster wide receivers.
FOR IOWA TO HAVE SUCCESS. They absolutely have to stop the LSU rushing attack. They can't allow LSU to grind out yards on the ground and then let Jennings complete easy passes off of play action. Iowa can get to Jennings but they have to be disciplined in their rush lanes and not allow him to break contain and run free. If Iowa can get LSU in 3rd and six-plus, they can disguise blitzes and make Jennings uncomfortable. He's an obvious talent and won the second string quarterback position as a true freshman for one of the nation's best football programs for a reason. Jennings is going to make plays. However, Iowa has to force him to make mistakes too.