It’s rematch time in Orlando as this season’s Citrus Bowl brings back the same match-up of the 2014 Music City Bowl. Notre Dame football fans recall that clash in Nashville, when the unranked Fighting Irish came in at 7-5 and 7.5 point underdogs and upset the Tigers 31-28.
It was the coming out party for quarterback Malik Zaire who won both the game and the press conference that day, providing an excellent repartee to a reporter who asked the cliche “Rudy” question. #GeauxIrish a take-off of LSU’s signature #GeauxTigers battle cry was a trending hash tag that day, but to be more authentic Notre Dame football fans should have converted their text from French to Gaelic.
That said, the proper translation would be #IrIrlandes
Maybe we’ll see this on Twitter on New Year’s Day? (No, we won’t).
No. 14 Notre Dame vs. No. 17 LSU
Jan. 1, 2018 | 1 p.m. ET on ABC
Camping World Stadium, Orlando, Florida
Spread: Notre Dame football +2.5, total 49.5
#17 LSU Tigers Preview:
Having covered that 2014 bowl game in Tennessee first hand, I recall perceiving that LSU was a bit off/kind of checked out in that game, or at least appeared so on the defensive side of the ball. That would kind of make sense given the news that broke that day- Defensive Coordinator John Chavis was on his way out, heading for the same gig at Texas A&M.
LSU entered that ranked #22 and boasting the the 4th ranked pass defense in the nation, the #1 total defense in the SEC, and the #2 scoring and passing defense in the league. Yet Zaire and company, an offense that really struggled with turnovers that season, really carved them up.
That Tigers team also started the season having set a record- most players lost to NFL Draft early entry the previous offseason.
This LSU team is more seasoned and experienced, with a better sense of balance as well. The 2017 stockpile of NFL Draft talent is led by Arden Key, who could be a top ten or even top five pick overall.
If you’re worried about LSU being complacent in this one, it might be due to the fact that they were just here last season.
The then #13 Tigers routed the then #9 Louisville Cardinals led by Heisman winner Lamar Jackson 29-9.
Thus, this game could feel a bit like “been there, done that,” especially when you remember the actual origin story for how and why bowl games were created in the first place.
The Tigers are led by a familiar face to Notre Dame football fans, QB Danny Etling, who transferred from Purdue. He comes into this one with a sparkling 14-2 TD-INT ratio and a 60% pass completion mark.
As this is LSU, it is of course, all about the run game though, and they have, per usual, depth at the tailback at the position.
Derrius Guice has 1,153 yards rushing and 11 TDs while Darrel Williams has 776 and 9. Williams is a tremendous threat as a pass catcher out of the backfield too.
Citrus Bowl Notes:
Outside of the New Year’s Six, this could be the most compelling matchup. As it’s the #2 vs #5 in a college football brand recognition poll, it might be more enthralling than the Peach or and even the Orange Bowl.
We’ve seen two other postseason games between these schools: the 2007 Sugar Bowl (LSU won 41-14) and the 1997 Independence Bowl (LSU won 27-9).
This is ND’s first ever Citrus Bowl appearance.
The Citrus Bowl was certainly a much bigger thing back in the ‘80s and ‘90s when you had fewer bowl games in general. As it moved off of New Year’s Day and sold off its name, it began to slide in prestige level. Now that it’s back to a traditional and non-corporate name, and returned to January 1, it’s starting to reclaim some ascendancy back up the bowl ladder.
A matchup like this certainly helps.
#14 Notre Dame football Preview:
The Irish match the Tigers with a season record of 9-3, with all three losses coming to some truly elite teams. In the summer, this destination would have been a very pleasant surprise for Irish supporters. However in November, when ND was in the playoff picture, it’s now a disappointment.
Before the losses at Miami and Stanford, Josh Adams, was a true Heisman Trophy candidate.
He left the Nov. 4 rout over Wake Forest very early after complaining of headaches, and Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly said afterward that he just wasn’t feeling himself.
Adams did play the next two games, but he was not the same, as he failed to top 50, let alone 100 yards rushing in either game. Still, #33Trucking has rushed for 1,386 yards and nine touchdowns, leading what has been arguably the nation’s best rushing team, and probably the most physical running attack in the nation for much of the year. It’s #7 right now nationally in yards rushing per game.
Adams and company run behind elite linemen on the left side of the line in OT Mike McGlinchey and OG Quenton Nelson, both of which could be top ten overall NFL Draft picks come April.
Quarterback Brandon Wimbush is an elite runner and so-so passer. He hasn’t been very accurate throwing the ball (49.8% completion, 133 of 267, 1,818 yards, 16 touchdowns, six interceptions), but he certainly does more than enough through the air to keep opposing defenses honest.
He more than makes up for his deficiencies in the air attack via his feet.
He has 765 rushing yards on 137 attempts (5.6 average) and 14 rushing touchdowns on the season. That gives him 30 TDs combined on the year.
Prediction: Notre Dame football 29, LSU 26
Paul M. Banks runs The Sports Bank.net and TheBank.News, which is partnered with News Now. Banks, a former writer for the Washington Times, NBC Chicago.com and Chicago Tribune.com, currently contributes regularly to WGN CLTV and the Tribune company’s blogging community Chicago Now.
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