Citrus Bowl Pick

218
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Citrus Bowl Pick

LSU

vs.

Louisville

12/31/16

The Citrus Bowl was set to be one of the more exciting non-playoff bowls, but some recent news has dampened expectations. Stud running back Leonard Fournette will skip the Game to focus on the NFL draft, while a couple starting Louisville linebackers were involved in a shooting and their co-offensive coordinator was suspended after news of the Wake Forest leaks. Through it all, the Tigers remained -3 point favorites as seen at 5Dimes Sportsbook for the Game in Orlando.

Prior to Michigan dominating Florida in this bowl a year ago, the SEC had won the previous five Citrus Bowls and LSU will look to start another streak. LSU had an interesting season, which resulted in Ed Orgeron being hired as full-time coach, despite a couple losses near the end of the season. The Tigers looked great at times as seen in road wins at Arkansas and Texas A&M, but they also faltered in a very winnable home Game against Florida. At the least, LSU’s 10-0 loss to Alabama may have been the Crimson Tide’s hardest test of the season.

Louisville was looking like a possible playoff contender before falling apart in the final two Games against Houston and Kentucky. It was a disappointing finish for Heisman winner LAmar Jackson, but all of the blame couldn’t be put on him. His offensive line struggled down the stretch and the defense gave up 41 points to Kentucky. This may be the best defense Louisville has seen all season and definitely the best since losing to Houston and Clemson, so it’s a wonder how Jackson will perform.

Jackson was sacked a ridiculous 11 times against Houston and if those problems come up again, LSU has the immediate edge. Otherwise, Jackson’s numbers need no introduction, throwing for 30 TDs and 9 INTs with 8.87 yards per attempt, while rushing for another 1,538 yards and 21 touchdowns. However, he looked mediocre in the final couple Games, running for 33 yards against Houston (sacks included) and throwing three interceptions against Kentucky. Jackson spreads the ball around plenty as he has Four receivers with at least 590 yards, but it’s running back Brandon Radcliff (877 yards) that is the underrated part of this offense. If he can churn out yards on the ground, that would in turn take pressure off Jackson to do it all himself. Radclif had just 19 yards against Houston and the offense scored 10 points.

LSU’s defense slipped up allowing 39 points to A&M in the finale, but otherwise did well to keep almost every other offense in check. Holding Alabama to 10 points can’t be overlooked.

LSU’s offense is more of the question, although they scored 54 against A&M and 38 against Arkansas, so they have that in them. Without Fournette in the lineup, things will be a little different, but he was hurt a good portion of the season and only totaled 173 yards in the final Four Games combined (didn’t play vs. A&M). Derrius Guice ran for 252 yards at Arkansas and 285 at A&M, so that may be all this offense needs after he averaged 8.0 yards per carry on the season.

The problem is that Louisville had one of the best rushing defenses in the country, allowing 110 yards per Game. But if those linebackers that got shot can’t play, that would hurt somewhat as James Hearns was their leading sacker. Their status should be monitored before the Game.

If LSU can’t run like normal, quarterback Danny Etling will be asked to move the ball, which isn’t exactly a good thing. He did well against A&M in the finale (324 yards, 2 TDs), but didn’t throw a touchdown in the three prior Games.

This will be an interesting matchup, which will probably end with the better defense winning. With a Game that features LAmar Jackson and Derrius Guice, that’s rarely said.

The Tigers are 5-2 ATS in their last seven Games overall and 1-4 ATS in their last five bowl Games. The Cardinals are 7-3 ATS in their last 10 vs. the SEC and 5-2 ATS in their last seven bowl Games.

check back on Game day for Our pick

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