Notre Dame had a disappointing end to the regular season but can end the year on a good note with a victory over LSU. The Irish lost their last four games and five of their last six after starting the season 6-0. The Notre Dame program has a lot of questions to answer at the Music City Bowl, from who will be the quarterback moving forward to how to improve a subpar defense. The Irish will need to greatly improve their play in order to beat a quality SEC team like LSU, who possess a massive offensive line and running attack that could gash the Notre Dame defense.
The big news of the day on Monday was the announcement by Brian Kelly that sophomore Malik Zaire will be making his first career start when the Irish take on the Tigers later today, but here are the other key matchups the Irish need to win in order to end the season on a high note.
Irish running backs versus Kwon Alexander: Versus the Tigers the Irish will need to run the ball with success in order to stay on the field and keep their defense from becoming exhausted and having its lack of depth show. Attempting to slow the Irish running attack down will be Tigers leading tackler Kwon Alexander. The junior linebacker 79 tackles this season and has excellent pursuit as well as being a typical physical SEC linebacker.
Will Fuller versus Ronald Martin: Notre Dame’s most dangerous weapon on offense all season has been receiver Will Fuller and he will need another big game versus an athletic LSU defense. Martin is a senior safety with good size and fits the mold of past elite Tigers defensive backs. The Louisiana native was third on the team in tackles with 66 and was tied for the team lead with two interceptions and 10 pass defenses. With sophomore Malik Zaire making his first career start, Notre Dame will need Fuller to get open downfield to give the green QB some chances for big plays.
Nyles Morgan versus Leonard Fournette: In a battle of talented freshman Notre Dame’s Nyles Morgan will face off with the elite Leonard Fournette. Morgan will need to be sharp as LSU’s offensive line will likely routinely blow open big holes and allow Fournette to get past the Irish front untouched. If Morgan makes improper reads and does not identify the right gaps to fill expect Fournette to rush for well over 100 yards.
Cole Luke versus Travin Dural: Cornerback Cole Luke has emerged as a bright spot for the Irish in an otherwise rough season. Luke has battled against numerous excellent receivers this season and will face a fellow emerging star in Travin Dural. Dural was far and away the most prolific Tigers receiver this year totalling over 550 more receiving yards than any other Tiger. Dural also has shown an ability to make highlight reel grabs look easy so Luke will need to be in his face all day long.