Commentary: Hawkeyes deserves bowl matchup with No. 16 LSU


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The SEC is an odd place. The schools tend to live and die with their football teams. A few of my buddies go to Missouri. Last year, during football season, I didn’t hear much out of them. This year, they wouldn’t shut up. It’s one of those territorial things.

It’s a huge difference from what we do here in the Big Ten, where football is huge, but basketball season gets an equal amount of attention. And with all of this in mind, it doesn’t surprise me, then, that Kirk Ferentz’s press conference on Sunday evening was more about being excited to play No. 16 LSU, whereas LSU head coach Les Miles talked more about the nice weather in Tampa.

“I think our friends and fans will travel there because there’s so much to do and certainly the weather’s great,” Miles said during his press conference about the Iowa-LSU Outback Bowl matchup set for New Year’s Day.

On paper, this matchup makes perfect sense. The Outback Bowl, after the Bowl Championship Series makes its picks, generally invites the third-best SEC West team and the third-best Big Ten team. Seeing as each conference got two teams into BCS games, it makes sense that Iowa and LSU fall to the Outback Bowl.

But in the court of public opinion, Iowa has already lost the game.

This mainly stems from LSU fans, of course. Even with star quarterback Zach Mettenberger out with a torn ACL, and with the potential of losing another key player to injury, Tiger fans aren’t big on this matchup. Message board chatterboxes and Twitter-ers have predicted LSU will blow out Iowa.

And that’s fine for them to think. Like I said: the SEC is an odd place.

What is crazy is saying that Iowa doesn’t deserve to be there, in the Outback Bowl, against one of the SEC’s powerhouse football programs.

The Hawkeyes won eight games this year and finished with a record that placed them fourth in the Big Ten. They did it with a hard-nosed defense and a young quarterback who has transformed into a good one right before our eyes.

Iowa deserves to be playing on New Year’s Day against LSU, and don’t let anybody tell you different. But the Hawkeyes deserve it because they earned it on the field.

They went out to Columbus, went toe-to-toe with Ohio State, and silenced the Buckeye faithful more than once. They came back and beat a talented Michigan team. They went into Lincoln and just mercilessly beat up a Nebraska team that didn’t want to play Iowa because it wanted a real rivalry. This Iowa team spent a quarter carving up a Michigan State defense that, at times, resembled a brick wall.

I knew this Iowa team would be fun to watch after the first game, and it has been all season. The frustrations of this season were more growing pains than anything — for crying out loud, this team finally stopped a fake punt.

And they did so because they were finally prepared. Ferentz has preached all season long that it’s about getting better each week. While this is the usual loaded stuff he tells the media all the time, he’s absolutely correct.

Iowa doesn’t deserve the Outback Bowl? LSU fans can preach it all they want, but they’re wrong. Besides, as a response, Iowa fans can just remind them of the last time — the ONLY time — the Hawkeyes and Tigers tangled in a bowl game.

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