Notre Dame vs LSU Preview and Prediction: Citrus Bowl
Notre Dame vs LSU Preview
In a battle of nine-win teams, only one will end up with the coveted ten-win season. Notre Dame has accomplished the feat two times under coach Brian Kelly. Meanwhile, LSU is searching for its first 10-win campaign since 2013 under ex-coach Les Miles, since replaced by Ed Orgeron.
Notre Dame will have to earn that ten-win season without some important pieces. The Fighting Irish flew to Orlando six days before the game to adjust to warmer temperatures, but receivers Kevin Stepherson (suspension) and Chase Claypool (injury), as well as tight ends Alize Mack (suspension) and Brock Wright (injury) did not make the trip.
That means quarterback Brandon Wimbush might have to rely more heavily on targets such as Equanimeous St. Brown, Miles Boykin and Chris Finke at wideout. Smythe could play a big role along with fellow tight ends Nic Weishar and Cole Kmet.
Wimbush struggled throughout much of the regular season as he completed only 49.8 percent of his passes for 1,818 yards, 16 touchdowns and six interceptions. He proved to be dangerous with his feet as he rushed for 765 yards and a team-leading 14 touchdowns.
Fighting Irish running back Josh Adams (1,386 yards, nine touchdowns) shined behind a behemoth offensive line anchored by Mike McGlinchey and Quenton Nelson. The emphasis on the ground game is likely to continue versus LSU, which will be without its top three linebackers because of injuries.
McGlinchey and Nelson will be first round picks in the 2018 NFL Draft and both could hear their names called within the Top 10.
LSU waited until later in the week before traveling to Orlando. The Tigers wrapped up the regular season with victories in three games in a row and six of their past seven.
LSU quarterback Danny Etling grew up in Terre Haute, Ind., about 220 miles southwest of Notre Dame’s campus in South Bend.
Back then, Etling was a huge fan of the Fighting Irish. He attended games with his family and proudly wore the team’s gear. An old jersey, No. 3 for Joe Montana, still hangs in his house.
But the Irish never committed to recruiting Etling and he started his college career at Purdue before transferring to Louisiana.
Etling had a solid season, completing 60.3 percent of his passes for 2,234 yards, 14 touchdowns and two interceptions. He added 107 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. The lack of turnovers were a key for the LSU offense being successful.
Senior wideout D.J. Chark led the Tigers with 35 catches for 811 yards and three scores. Wideout Russell Gage (19 catches, 270 yards) and tight end Foster Moreau (20 catches, 214 yards) also hauled in three touchdowns apiece.
In the backfield, Tigers running back Derrius Guice racked up 1,153 rushing yards to go along with 11 touchdowns. Guice missed several bowl practices because of a knee injury but returned to practice on Tuesday and is expected to be ready for the game.
Personally, it is good to see Guice try to play through the injuries in this bowl game–he is bucking the trend of a lot of the top prospects skipping their bowl games to prepare for the NFL Draft.
LSU is stout on defense even without its starting linebacker corps. Defensive tackle Greg Gilmore (6 1/2 sacks) and defensive end Christian LaCouture (six sacks) lead the unit.
Notre Dame linebacker Te’von Coney has 99 tackles on the season and is almost certain to top the century mark against the Tigers. Defensive tackle Jerry Tillery is tops with four sacks.
This marks the 12th meeting between the teams. Notre Dame owns a 6-5 series edge, including a 31-28 win in the most recent matchup in the Music City Bowl on Dec. 30, 2014.
Both teams have stout defenses, but I believe this game will come down to quarterback play. Which QB will not make the mistake to cost their team. I like Wimbush, but if he is relied on to take his team down the field with his arm, it simply is not good enough. Danny Etling will never be mistaken for a Joe Montana, but he will do enough to keep his team out of trouble and put enough points up on the scoreboard.
LSU 27 Notre Dame 21