TAMPA — LSU has three losses on the season. One of them, Outback Bowl president Jim McVay is quick to point out, was not to BCS championship-game-bound Auburn.
LSU, which handed Auburn its only loss of the season Sept. 21, finished the season No. 14 in the Associated Press poll and No. 16 in the BCS rankings. Its tradition and successful season, McVay said, made the Tigers the right pick for the 19th Outback Bowl.
LSU was selected Sunday to play Iowa. The Outback Bowl generally features schools from the Big Ten and SEC.
"It's just one of those programs," McVay said about LSU. "You take those guys, they are the most deserving. And believe me, they have a passionate fan base that's like no other."
LSU (9-3) won its first four games before suffering its first loss, to then-No. 9 Georgia. The Tigers went on to lose two more SEC games — to Mississippi and then-No. 1 Alabama — and finished third in the SEC West.
Iowa (8-4) won the last three games of its regular season — against Purdue, Michigan and Nebraska — and finished second in the Big Ten Legends Division.
"I have great respect for Kirk Ferentz and the program that he's built at Iowa," LSU coach Les Miles said in a statement. "They have enjoyed a lot of success in the Big Ten over an extended period of time, and we are excited about the chance to play them."
LSU has played in the bowl once before, in 1989 when it was called the Hall of Fame Bowl. This is Iowa's fourth trip to the bowl.
LSU and Iowa last met at the Capital One Bowl on Jan. 1, 2005. Iowa quarterback Drew Tate threw for 287 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Hawkeyes to a 30-25 win in Nick Saban's final game as coach of the Tigers.
Iowa trailed 25-24 in that game with nine seconds to go when Tate launched a 56-yard pass to Warren Holloway, who scored the winning touchdown as time expired.
The past two Outback Bowls have had exciting finishes. South Carolina beat Michigan this year in the final seconds, and Michigan State beat Georgia in triple overtime in 2012.
McVay is confident the next Outback Bowl will bring similar thrills.
"There's a reason why we've just extended our contracts for six years with the Big Ten and SEC," he said. "Both conferences have great coaches, tough football players that want to win and have a lot of pride, and that's how these games end up close."