What is Dispatches from Blogfrica? Pretty simple: I ask questions of an blogger for an opposing team; he answers. A truly revolutionary idea, no? Today: Billy at And The Valley Shook!, SB Nation's superb blog for all things LSU.
1) This feels like a Bizarro LSU team, where a surprisingly dynamic and potent offense is carrying a more vulnerable than normal defense. Does it feel that way to LSU fans as well? How have you coped with rooting for a team that seems a little out of sync with the typical LSU identity?
It's definitely been different. Coming into the season, I expected LSU to take a step forward on offense and a step backward on defense, but not nearly to the degrees that we saw on both sides of the ball. The offense has been an unbridled joy to watch for a number of reasons, but the defense has been frustrating. Largely because the struggles haven't come from the youth, as we expected, but from veterans and seniors not living up to expectations.
Still, I'm confident that this defense will improve with time. John Chavis earned that benefit of the doubt. But it's exciting to think about what Cam Cameron will do in the future as he continues to recruit and develop his own talent, especially at quarterback, where LSU has some real depth, which we'll see on display in this bowl game.
2) Losing a shootout to Georgia (before injuries had completely savaged them) is no great shakes and obviously losing to Alabama is not cause for alarm, but... what the heck happened in that Ole Miss game? How did y'all lose to the Fightin' Ackbars?
The Rebels have been a pretty consistent thorn in LSU's side in recent years, even in victory. It's a game they treat like the Super Bowl, and that's what made it so frustrating to watch. That was honestly one of the worst efforts I've seen out of this program in the Miles Era. One of the handful of times LSU simply did not show up ready to play. It was just a complete mail-in job from start to finish from a team that believed they could roll its helmets out on the field and win. I took it in in person, and nobody on LSU's sideline showed even the faintest sign of life until very late in the fourth quarter.
3) Zach Mettenberger is out for this game, which is good from our standpoint, because I was pretty damn terrified of the prospect of him launching deep balls down field to Jarvis Landry and Odell Backham. But what's the deal with this Anthony Jennings kid? What do Iowa fans need to know about him? The last time we played you guys (WOO WARREN HOLLOWAY WOO) you also played a freshman QB (the man, the myth, the purple drank guzzler JMR) and he engineered a comeback that damn near beat Iowa.
He would have probably played much earlier if a certain former head coach hadn't tried to crack the discipline whip on his way out the door and play Matt Flynn for no reason.
Jennings was part of a fantastic 2013 recruiting class at quarterback, along with fellow four-star recruit Hayden Rettig. Both guys arrived early for spring practice, but it was Jennings that really made a statement, stealing the backup job out from under veteran Stephen (brother of Phillip) Rivers in the spring and cementing himself in that role in the fall. He's a more mobile guy, so I expect some option plays and other designed runs with him in the game, but he's also shown some nice polish in the passing game in practice. Honestly, he couldn't have made a better first impression than a 99-yard game-winning drive against Arkansas. Hopefully, the Tigers can avoid putting Jennings in that situation again.
4) This isn't quite a vintage LSU defense, probably because pretty much all of last year's defense appears to be playing in the NFL this year. (Not the worst problem to have, that's for sure.) But who are some of the names and faces that Iowa fans should be wary of on Wednesday anyway? Who's gonna be smothering our receivers or trying to stop Mark Weisman in his tracks or chase Jake Rudock all over the backfield?
Injuries and ineffective play by some veterans have forced LSU to play a lot of freshmen this season, and the top two corners out on the field will be rookies Tre'davious White and Rashard Robinson. The latter, in particular, looks special. Due to some qualifying issues, Robinson started practicing a week before LSU's season opener, but he showed enough athleticism to see the field within the first month of the season, and had become the team's third corner by October. He's a big, physical player that managed to out-muscle Texas A&M's Mike Evans for four quarters a few weeks back. White has taken more lumps, but his future is bright as well. He's dropped two or three interceptions this season, but you have to think that one of those times he's going to haul one in.
Watch for Ricky (brother of Jordan) Jefferson to start, or play a ton, at one of LSU's safety positions as well. He had a very athletic interception versus Johnny Football and the Aggies, and has played the ball better than almost all of LSU's veterans at the position.
5) Is there any chance Jeremy Hill could line up at linebacker for a few snaps? I just want to see what would happen if he tackled Mark Weisman and if the world wound end or not. KTHXBYE
I think Guillermo Del Toro's Pacific Rim might have been prophetic of this game.
6) Do you have a personal favorite name on the LSU team? I was looking over the roster and it's just an embarrassment of riches. Ego Ferguson? A Quantavius (Leslie) AND a Tre'Davious (White)? Jerqwinick Sandolph? Colby Delahoussaye? Tre' (Sullivan), Trai (Turner), and A'Trey-U (Jones)? And I feel like that's just scratching the surface.
7) As far as I can tell, y'all have never played in this bowl game under Les Miles. (Actually, as far as I can tell, LSU has never played in this bowl game, under any of its present or former names.) How excited is Les to get a mouthful of Tampa grass between his cheeks this week? Also, if LSU wins, is there any chance that Les doesn't don a pirate hat and take over the pirate ship in the end zone? (I will be bitterly disappointed if this doesn't happen, frankly.)
LSU actually has been in this game in one of its former lives as the Hall of Fame Bowl, a 23-10 loss to Syracuse in 1989. Many point to that game as the beginning of LSU's roughest years under Mike Archer and Curly Hallman, which extended into the mid-1990s. But it's been a while. The Outback Bowl, traditionally, has avoided SEC Western division teams like the plague, even passing on the Tigers a couple of times. Most of us were kind of surprised that they took us this year.
As for the pirate ship, you laugh now, but when Les sets sail and forces Cuba to surrender, it's gonna be the finest cigars and rum for everybody!
8) OK, prediction time -- who ya got?
I'm not one for score predictions, but I think this game will be won at the line of scrimmage. LSU's biggest matchup advantage may be out at wide receiver, but we certainly don't want to put this game on Anthony Jennings' shoulders to win by himself. By the same token, we also really haven't seen LSU just ride Jeremy Hill to a victory yet with 25-30 carries (he's only gone over 20 twice this season). Iowa's linebackers are really good, but if the Tigers pound Hill long enough, he's likely going to break something.
If Hill and the LSU ground game gets going, I think LSU can win this one. If not, Iowa will come out on top.
Thanks for being a good sport, Billy, although I still hope your team loses by 50 on Wednesday. You can check out Billy and the rest of the ATVS crew at And The Valley Shook!. You can also follow Billy on Twitter at @ATVS_ChefBilly and ATVS at @valleyshook. The Iowa-LSU game is in Tampa, FL on Wednesday, January 1, and is scheduled to start at 12:00 pm CT, with television coverage from ESPN.