Tigers set for Citrus Bowl matchup with Notre Dame
For the second time in the past four years, LSU will have to go through Notre Dame to finish the season with a bowl victory.
In their second straight Citrus Bowl appearance, the 17th-ranked Tigers will face the 14th-ranked Fighting Irish in Orlando on New Year’s Day. The winner will claim their 10th victory of the season. This would be LSU’s first 10-win year since 2013.
It won’t be easy. They’ll face a Notre Dam team that went 9-3 during the regular season and reached as far as No. 3 in the polls.
The Irish got off to a tremendous start in 2017. They rolled to 8-1. This included dominating victories over USC and N.C. State. Their lone loss was a 1-point defeat against Georgia.
However, the Irish ended the year by winning just one of their final three contests.
The misfortune seemed to follow Notre Dame into the bowl season.
It was announced last week that two of their players will be suspended for the contest.
One of the players that will be out will be receiver Kevin Stepherson. Stepherson is third on the team in receiving yards and first in receiving touchdowns.
Although, his loss won’t be felt so harshly for the Irish if they can get their run game going against the Tigers.
Notre Dame hasn’t had a dynamic passing game. Starting quarterback Brandon Wimbush has only thrown for 1,818 yards and completed just 50 percent of his passes.
It’s the running game that is their bread and butter.
Led by two All-American offensive linemen in Mike McGlinchey and Quenton Nelson, the Irish rushing attack ranks seventh nationally as they churn out 279 yards per game.
Wimbush has been deadly as a runner. He enters the Citrus Bowl with 765 yards and a whopping 14 touchdowns on the ground.
Also in the backfield is one of the top running backs in the country in Josh Adams. Adams rushed for 1,386 yards and nine touchdowns this season.
At 6-foot-1, 228 pounds, he possessed tremendous power and physicality. LSU head coach Ed Orgeron said that his defense has been tackling linemen at practice to simulate what it will be like to bring down Adams.
In LSU’s 6-1 run to end the season, the defense came alive—especially against the run.
Led by Rashard Lawrence and Christian LaCouture up front and Devin White at linebacker, the Tigers rank 23rd in run defense as they yield just 126 yards per game.
The Tigers have been even better against the pass. The secondary is ranked 20th as they surrender just 185 yards per contest.
Wimbush’s top two targets in the passing game are Equanmeous St. Brown and Chase Claypool. The two combined for 870 yards and six touchdowns during the regular season.
Like Notre Dame, LSU will be without a starter.
Orgeron announced last week that pass rusher Arden Key will be forced to sit out—which will most likely end his career at LSU (projected top-10 pick in the NFL draft).
Key is dealing with a knee injury that he sustained in the Tigers’ win over Arkansas. He is also fresh off of getting surgery on his finger. He missed the final two regular season games.
On the other side of the ball, Notre Dame will be taxed with stopping a proficient LSU rushing attack.
The Tigers feature two running backs that rushed for over 750 yards this season in Derrius Guice (1,153) and Darrel Williams (776), while Notre Dame ranks just 49th in stopping the run. They give up 153 yards per game.
The Irish also rank 49th against the pass.
LSU quarterback Danny Etling will be starting his final collegiate game. He is coming off of a career high of 347 yards passing against Texas A&M.
The last time the two teams faced off, it didn’t go well for the Tigers. In 2014, the Irish beat them with a last-second field goal, 31-28, in the Music City Bowl.
However, LSU won the previous two matchups.
In the 2006 Sugar Bowl, the Tigers crushed the Irish, 41-14.
In the 1997 Independence Bowl, Rondell Mealey stepped in for an injured Kevin Faulk and rushed for 222 yards in a 27-9 win over Notre Dame.