IOWA CITY – Louisiana State reminds Iowa football coach Kirk Ferentz of a number of football teams he’s watched.
Mostly, the team the Hawkeyes face in the Outback Bowl on New Year’s Day reminds the 15th-year Iowa coach of the teams that play on Sundays.
“They’re like a pro team in a lot of ways,’’ Ferentz said Monday. “They’re very athletic, very physical, very skilled. They are outstanding in a lot of ways.’’
After focusing on itself in initial bowl practices this month, the Hawkeyes turned their attention to LSU on the practice field for the first time on Friday night.
Iowa has worked out at its indoor facility since then and leaves today for Tampa, where players will have some time to enjoy the city before beginning a normal game-week routine with a practice Thursday afternoon.
“We’re ready to get to some warmer weather and to get ready to face another opponent,’’ running back Mark Weisman said. “We’ve been doing a lot of Iowa versus Iowa stuff so far and it’s good to start preparing for another team.’’
Ferentz said the Tigers aren’t just “another team.’’
He points to the team’s collection of running backs and receivers — a group led by 1,000-yard rusher Jeremy Hill and a pair of 1,000-yard receivers in Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham — as examples of the challenges that await Iowa.
Senior safety Tanner Miller said Landry and Beckham are likely the best receivers the Hawkeyes have faced since lining up against Oklahoma in the 2011 Insight Bowl.
“They have a very athletic group of receivers, very experienced,’’ Miller said. “It will be a real test for us.’’
Iowa has little game tape to go on of the quarterback who will start for LSU.
True freshman Anthony Jennings has appeared in eight games this season, but saw his most extensive action in leading the Tigers on a game-deciding 99-yard drive in the regular-season finale after senior starter Zach Mettenberger saw an ACL injury end his season.
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“It’s an impressive drive, but that’s about all we have to go on,’’ Ferentz said. “It’s a credit to him to be able to come into the situation and perform the way he did. We know he was highly recruited, but that doesn’t always mean a lot. But for him to come in as freshman and earn the No. 2 spot does mean a lot because that’s based on performance and what the coaches have seen on a daily basis.’’
LSU averaged 465.9 yards per game this season and Iowa defensive coordinator Phil Parker expects the Tigers to build around what has worked in addition to adding a wrinkle or two to utilize Jennings’ abilities to run with the ball.
“They have time to do some things to play to his strengths and we need to cognizant of that as well,’’ Parker said. “We have a lot to get ready for.’’
Linebacker Anthony Hitchens sees that as well.
“They’ve got our attention and we’re ready to go to work,’’ Hitchens said.