LSU looking to finish season with bowl win over the Irish
If it's up to LSU, Notre Dame will be stuck singing a depressing country melody in Nashville come Dec. 30.
That day, the two college football heavyweights will meet in the epicenter of country music for a clash in the Music City Bowl.
It will be their first encounter since 1998. It was then that the Irish beat the Tigers in a 39-36 thriller in South Bend.
This time around, both teams will limp into the game. LSU comes in after losing two of their final three games, and Notre Dame will take the field having just endured a four-game losing streak.
During the skid, the Irish gave up an average of 45 points per contest.
Their downfall was unexpected. With quarterback Everett Golson back, there were plenty of high expectations for the Irish. It was Golson that led Notre Dame to the national championship game as a true freshman.
Early on, he and the Irish looked great. They ran off six straight wins, leapt into the top 10 and had Golson as one of the top Heisman candidates.
However, a controversial razor-thin loss to Florida State turned their season upside down. After the demoralizing defeat, they finished the rest of the year just 1-4.
Two of those losses were 55-31 and 49-14 drubbings to both Arizona State and USC.
Now that they've had nearly a month to regroup, they'll try to turn things around and end the season on a high note against the Tigers--who were certainly not immune to disappointments this season.
Despite being ranked in the top 10 at one point, the Tigers suffered four losses. In two of the defeats, the Tigers were outscored by Auburn and Arkansas by a combined score of 58-7.
They did show their potential at the end of the season when they upset then-thrid-ranked Ole Miss 10-7 and then beat a hot Texas A&M squad 23-17 in College Station on Thanksgiving night.
As the season progressed, the TIger defense made dramatic improvements. Many of those strides have to be credited to the maturing of sophomore defensive tackle Christian LaCouture and true freshman Davon Godchaux
The emergence of middle linebacker Kendell Beckwith helped sure up the run defense, and true freshman Jamal Adams was also able to give the defense a big boost.
The Tigers finished the year with the fourth-best secondary in the country--only yielding 162 passing yards per game. They ranked No. 8 in total defense and No. 3 in scoring defense with just 16 points surrendered each contest.
They'll have to live up to those numbers against the Irish. Notre Dame has proven to have an explosive offense all season long--scoring 33 a game.
Golson will be one of the best quarterbacks LSU has faced all season. He has thrown for 3,355 yards and 29 touchdowns while adding nearly 300 yards rushing and eight scores.
Though, Golson has been prone to turnovers. He has thrown 14 interceptions.
His No. 1 receiver has been William Fuller. Fuller has had a huge year--piling up 1,037 yards and a booming 14 scores. Corey Robinson is always a tough matchup at 6-foot-5.
On the ground, Tarean Folston has rushed for over 800 yards and five touchdowns.
LSU has the opportunity to put up some points on the Irish. This is certainly not the defense that took them to the national title game in 2012.
They have been giving up 29 points a game, and they rank just No. 62 against the run--yielding 162 yards per contest.
That certainly bodes well for a TIger rushing attack that is fresh off of exploding for 384 yards against Texas A&M.
Freshman Leonard Fournette should get plenty of carries after running for a career-high 146 yards against the Aggies.
Anthony Jennings could get plenty of attempts as well after he gashed Texas A&M for over 100 yards. Though, he will have to do it through the air to really exploit the Irish "D."
Notre Dame ranks just 84th against the pass as they give up 240 yards per game.
If Jennings can get into rhythm and find Travin Dural and Malachi Dupre, there is a chance the LSU offense could put up big points.
If the Tigers can claim the win, it will be the ninth time in the last 10 years that they have won at least nine games in a season.