Okay, so apparently Tiger fans aren't exactly eager for the trip to the sunny city of Tampa, but look -- Iowa fans are going to show up. And they clearly expect their team to win. Meanwhile, just about all of the people expressing this lack of excitement for the bowl game will damn sure be upset if LSU does lose, won't they?
The most important things about bowl games, in the long run, are that they keep fan morale up for the offseason (something that will really be important as LSU tries to close on a historic recruiting class), and provide an extra week-plus of practice time that can be incredibly important for the next team. Underclassmen that will be moving into the starting lineup or more important backup roles. Redshirt players that didn't get nearly as much attention during the season. It can even allow a coaching staff time to reassess their roster and themselves.
And with all that in mind, here are five goals for LSU this bowl season, aside from the most obvious of playing for victory.
1. Assess Anthony Jennings. Yeah, we know he made one hell of a first impression. Certainly made one on Paul. But what can he do for a full game? This spring will be probably feature the best quarterback competition LSU has seen in some time, and Jennings has a chance to stake his claim to the QB1 spot and give us a better view of his strengths and weaknesses as that spring begins. How LSU can help him out and adapt to his skillset are things we'll address as we get closer to game time.
2. Offensive line continuity. I don't know if he'll be back next year or test the NFL waters, but should La'El Collins come back for 2014 it will mark the first time in Les Miles' tenure that the Tigers have returned all five starters on the offensive front. I can't stress enough how awesome that would be. But even more so, this practice will give more opportunities to improve continuity among the guys that appear certainties to return, like Trai Turner, Vadal Alexander, Jerald Hawkins and Elliot Porter. Additionally, key backups like Ethan Pocic, Evan Washington and Josh Boutte will also get more time in. Alexander missed most of last year's offseason program recovering from various injuries, and I think that showed up at times this season. Hawkins has plenty of athletic tools, but simply hasn't played his position that much. They can use all the practice time they can get.
3. Finding out who is next at receiver. Jennings will have a hell of a safety net in his top two targets, but there's no way of knowing whether Odell Beckham Jr. or Jarvis Landry will return next year. Certainly, their stock will be at an all-time high. Travin Dural, Travis Dickson, Desean Smith -- these will be the veterans Jennings will have to grow with. Bowl practices are a good time to start.
4. Answering the safety question. Craig Loston will be suiting up the final time, Corey Thompson and Ronald Martin, I believe, will still be out with injuries. Micah Eugene and Jerqwinick Sandolph aren't making the trip and either or both players' futures are in doubt here. That leaves Rickey Jefferson and Jalen Mills along with Loston. Practice won't just be important for the matchup with the Hawkeyes, it's going to huge for their 2014 seasons as well.
5. Finding new playmakers in the front seven. This area was a relative disaster this season. Danielle Hunter and Kwon Alexander were the lone bright spots, while a host of veterans were total let downs. Some of those guys will be back, some of them won't. Will guys like Anthony Johnson, Ego Ferguson (should they reserve) and Jermauria Rasco be part of the solution next season? How about freshmen like Christian Lacouture and Tashawn Bower? If the preparation doesn't give the coaching staff some inklings, Iowa's incredibly well-coached offensive line certainly should.