The Fighting Irish are coming off a disappointing three game stretch to end the regular season. Notre Dame will, however, have the opportunity to finish the 2017 with 10 wins, against a familiar foe in the LSU Tigers on New Year’s Day. If Brian Kelly wants to complete his turnaround on a positive note, the Irish will have to do so without several top performers.
What you Need to Know:
- Game Time: January 1st, 1:00 p.m. ET on ABC
- Location: Citrus Bowl, Orlando, Florida
- Matchup: Notre Dame is 6-5 all-time against LSU (Last Meeting: Irish beat LSU 31-28 in the 2014 Music City Bowl)
- Current Odds: LSU -3.0
- GameDay Events: The Notre Dame Pep Rally will take place on December 31st at 4:00 p.m. at I-Drive 360. For more details visit http://www.ndorlando.com/s/1210/clubs-classes/2col-grid4-split.aspx?gid=371&pgid=61
- Conference: SEC West
- Head Coach: Ed Orgeron
- 2017 Record: 9-3
- 2016 Record: 8-4
Up and down season for the Tigers. Early in the season LSU lost to Mississippi State by 30 points and to Troy at home. LSU is ending the season on a 3-game win streak. Their last loss came against #4 Alabama. The Tigers only lost by 14-ponts on the road to the Crimson Tide. LSU’s signature win was at home against Auburn, where the Tigers erased a 20-point deficit.
New Coach leading the Tigers. When the Irish faced the Tigers in 2014 they were facing legendary coach LSU Miles. Former Iiterim coach Ed Orgeron, has now become the head coach of the Tigers. There isn’t any question that Orgeron has had a quality first season in Louisiana.
Irish face familiar quarterback in Danny Etling. The Indiana Native, Danny Etling, will lead the Tigers against Notre Dame. The Irish last saw Etling in the 2014 Shamrock Series when he was QB for the Purdue Boilermakers. He has 14 touchdowns and only 2 interceptions on the season. These are quality numbers, but I would expect a little more production from a quarterback who never runs. Etling is also averaging a respectable 60.3% completion percentage this season.
Derrius Guice highlights the Tiger backfield with 11 touchdowns. He has been nursing an injury this week, but Coach Orgeron expects him to be ready for the Bowl game. Guice is the only player on the team with over 1,000 rushing. He is accompanied by Darrel Williams with 776 yards on the ground and 9 touchdowns.
LSU will be missing 3 defensive starters. Corey Thompson (outside linebacker), Donnie Alexander (inside linebacker), and Arden Key (Defensive End) for the bowl game, all with injuries. However, they will be facing a depleted Irish Offense as well.
Notre Dame Storylines:
Suspensions plague the Irish once again. This past week Brian Kelly suspended star receiver Kevin Stepherson, tight end Alize Mack, and freshman running back CJ Holmes. CJ Holmes did not contribute much this season, however Stepherson and Mack were a strong part of the offense. Stepherson arguably was the best receiver on the field when he played. Stepherson played only half the season and still led the team in receiving touchdowns with 5.
On top of all the suspensions, another key receiver will miss the Citrus Bowl. Chase Claypool has suffered a season ending injury.
Will the Notre Dame passing game be enough? Brandon Wimbush finished the regular season with only a 49.8 % completion percentage. Without a plethora of receivers, getting the passing game started will be even harder. Not to mention the Irish are up against an SEC Defense, albeit an injured one.
Wimbush’s performance will be huge heading into next season, as the quarterback competition against Ian Book will be ramped up. Along with incoming freshman quarterback Phil Jurkovec.
Can Kelly finish with another 10-win season? Ever since the Wake Forest game, the Irish have not looked like the dominant team from the first half of the season. Coupled with two blowout losses on the road, Notre Dame needs to finish strong. A strong finish would help to propel the team into next season, with a top recruiting class coming in next fall.
Head to Head Matchups:
Notre Dame Offense vs. LSU Defense- Advantage LSU- Even though Notre Dame was awarded the Joe Moore Award, the Irish Offense has not produced much these last three games. The passing game woes have put a burden on the offensive line and running game, that they have not been able to fix.
LSU Offense vs. Notre Dame Defense– Tie– The Notre Dame Defense was exposed against Wake Forest, and ever since that game the Irish Defense has never been the same. The turnovers by the Irish Offense have also put Mike Elko’s Defense in bad situations. In their last game against Stanford, they didn’t play awful, Stanford’s quarterback K.J. Costello just played like a future NFL QB.
I expect Notre Dame to play better against LSU in the Citrus Bowl. LSU has a solid offense, and Etling is playing mistake free football this season. He is also a veteran quarterback. This will be an intriguing matchup for Mike Elko.
Special Teams- Irish- LSU is headlined by two field goal kickers, Jack Gonsoulin who is only 4 for 9 this season. Their other kicker, freshman Connor Culp, is 11 for 15 on the season.
For the Irish, Justin Yoon is 12 of 16 this year, and two of his misses were against Temple in Week 1.
The last time these two teams faced, the difference was a last second field goal by Kyle Brindza. I believe that field goals will be important in this game as well.
Ever since Wake Forest scored 37 points on the Irish, Notre Dame has been going downhill. The last time the Irish took the field was against Stanford. Take away two short passes to St. Brown and Stepherson, that went for long touchdowns and the Offense didn’t do much. I haven’t seen enough from the Irish the last four games of the season to think that they will change, especially with all their setbacks at the receiver position.
LSU is a good team when they play to their potential, which they have for a majority of the season. They weren’t planning on going to the playoffs like Notre Dame, so they are more content with this game and getting 10 wins.
I expect LSU to load the box, and force Wimbush to beat them. Again, Brandon is completing less than 50% of his attempts and this was before Claypool and Stepherson were out. Perhaps the time off can rejuvenate this offensive line to be great, like they were for the first 9 games. I just don’t see how the Irish can overcome setbacks and their passing struggles.
My Prediction: LSU 27 Notre Dame 17