Outback Bowl 2014: Running backs

When the Iowa Hawkeyes and no. 16 LSU Tigers face-off in the Outback Bowl on Jan. 1 the difference in athleticism and speed will be evident and at a crucial position for any offense, running back.

Other than a handful of schools: Baylor (Big 12), Florida State (ACC), Oregon (Pac-12), Stanford (Pac-12), Texas (Big 12) to name a few — the fastest athletes usually reside in the SEC.

LSU will have the luxury of fielding a 1,000 yard rusher in the Outback Bowl in Jeremy Hill — he finished the season with 1,185 yards and 14 touchdowns — and will have a formidable back-up when he takes the occasional breather in Terrence Magee who finished the season with 79 carries for 614 yards and 8 touchdowns.

Hill is considered to be one of the most-talented backs in college football and is likely to enter the 2014 NFL draft after averaging 107 yards per game — second in the SEC — and 6.8 yards per carry.

The Baton Rouge, LA native is the type of running back Iowa has had trouble stopping because he’s not only a physical runner but also faster than nearly every Hawkeye defender.

LSU tailback Jeremy Hill rushes the ball against the Auburn Tigers on Sept. 21.

LSU tailback Jeremy Hill rushes the ball against the Auburn Tigers on Sept. 21.

This bodes poorly for the Hawkeyes, even though they field one of the stingiest defenses in the NCAA — to be discussed further in the coming days — their defense isn’t built on speed, like Oregon’s defense is for example.

And to make matters worse, the Tigers are averaging 200 yards rushing per game.

Iowa doesn’t have a 1,000 yard rusher and hasn’t had one since Marcus Coker in 2011.

The Hawkeyes rushing attack relies on workhorse back Mark Weisman.

Weisman, who finished the season with 938 yards on 209 carries and 7 touchdowns, doesn’t possess the speed that Hill does, but he’s able to consistently move the chains. The Buffalo Grove, Il native however, hasn’t rushed for over 100 yards since week five when Iowa beat Minnesota 23-7 and has struggled against Big Ten defenses.

In order for Iowa to pull out a win over LSU, they'll have to rely on QB Jake Rudock (15) and running back Mark Weisman (45). (Byron Houlgrave / The Des Moines Register)

In order for Iowa to pull out a win over LSU, they’ll have to rely on QB Jake Rudock (15) and running back Mark Weisman (45). (Byron Houlgrave / The Des Moines Register)

 

Iowa Head coach Kirk Ferentz and offensive coordinator Greg Davis must find a way to open rushing lanes for Weisman and tailback Damon Bullock.

Given that LSU’s quarterback Zach Mettenberger tore his ACL in the season-finale and has given the QB advantage to Iowa, head coach Les Miles will have to rely heavily on Hill and his rushing attack against the Hawkeyes.

Iowa will have to replicate some of their elite defensive performances against Big Ten foes in the Outback Bowl or risk being outmatched by a faster more athletic squad in LSU.

 

For more on Iowa leading up to the Outback Bowl on Jan. 1 go to the Hawkeyes team page on Isportsweb.