Posted on December 31, 2017, by Travis Pulver
LSU was never in the national title conversation like Notre Dame at one point, but the Tigers had an interesting journey to the Citrus Bowl this year. After two solid wins, they were blown out by Mississippi State. But as bad as the loss was, it was not the one that angered fan the most. That loss came two weeks later when they dropped a game to Troy, 24-21.
At that point in the season, there were fans calling for new head coach Ed Orgeron’s head. GoFundMe pages were started to help the team raise the millions of dollars it would take to buy out his contract. But the university didn’t overreact to the disappointing and surprising loss to Troy.
Orgeron went on to pay back their faith by guiding the team to a 6-1 finish following the loss to Troy including big wins over then-No. 21 Florida and then-No. 10 Auburn.
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Notre Dame opened eyes when it played well against Georgia in an early season 20-19 loss. They went on to dominate their next seven opponents including then-No. 11 USC and then-No.14 NC State. At that point, they were in the national title picture and just needed to win out in order to secure their spot.
But then they met the Miami Hurricanes. Four turnovers led to 24-points for the Hurricanes and a lopsided loss for the Fighting Irish. They had a slim chance to get back in the picture with a win over Stanford in their regular season finale. But once again, turnovers and points off those turnovers did them in.
When these two meet on Monday in the 72nd Citrus Bowl, two good teams will be looking to end their season on the right note. But only one can.
So—who’s going to win?
It is not hard to figure out what Notre Dame is going to do. The Fighting Irish will look to run the ball down the throat of the LSU defense. With the nation’s best offensive line making lanes for Josh Allen and Brandon Wimbush, it is not hard to understand the game plan.
Of course, it helps that Allen (191 carries for 1386 yards and nine touchdowns) and Wimbush (137 carries for 765 yards and 14 touchdowns) are talented runners. It would be nice if they had a passing game to complement their run game. But Wimbush is not a great passer. He’s completed less than half of his passes this season (133-267) for 1818 yards and 16 touchdowns.
But he doesn’t make a ton of mistakes with the ball (six interceptions).
LSU was one of the better defenses against the run this season (No. 2; 126.4 yards/game allowed). But the unit is going to be without a few major players. Two of their three starting linebackers are injured. Arden Key hasn’t said he’s going pro but is expected to and has been ruled out of the game.
Ed Orgeron will have to hope that his own run game can help make up for his missing defenders. With Derrius Guice leading the way, the Tigers have a formidable run game (No. 28; 210.8 yards/game). Should Guice need a break, Darrel Williams is more than capable of carrying the load (136 carries for 776 yards and nine touchdowns).
The key to the game will likely be whether LSU’s second-string linebackers can keep the Notre Dame offensive line from pushing it around. Fans shouldn’t count on it. But Notre Dame’s inability to establish much of a passing game could be the break they need.
It will be if Danny Etling can treat the Notre Dame secondary like he does Texas A&M’s.
Putting any faith in LSU’s passing game is hard. But with the losses on defense, it is going to be hard for them to beat Notre Dame even though the Fighting Irish are one-dimensional.
LSU is favored by three. But look for Notre Dame to win by seven.