Neither of these teams finished the season where they wanted, but that doesn’t mean the Citrus Bowl won’t be an intriguing matchup. LSU dominated Louisville here last year and will try to do the same against a Notre Dame team that fell apart apart in the final month of the season. The Tigers were -3 point favorites a couple weeks ahead of the Game as seen at 5Dimes Sportsbook.
LSU is favored because Notre Dame hasn’t been the same team since getting demolished by Miami 41-8. It struggled to beat a mediocre Navy squad and then couldn’t deal with Stanford in the finale. The Fighting Irish were dominant early in the season and could’ve taken down Georgia, but there’s good reason to wonder where this team is at heading into this Game.
It’s been almost the opposite for LSU with its only loss in the last seven Games coming at Alabama in a tight 24-10 contest. The Tigers turned things around when they came back against Auburn and closed the season with easy wins against weaker teams in the SEC. Of course, that statement needs to be considered here because Arkansas, Tennessee and Texas A&M all had deflating seasons and beating them didn’t really show LSU’s strength all that much. At the least, this will be a fun Game between two teams that are solid on both sides of the ball.
Notre Dame maybe isn’t thought to have a great defense after getting ran over by Stanford last time out, but the Fighting Irish still only allowed 21.8 points per Game while holding teams to 4.0 yards per carry. That stat will be useful in this Game because LSU is built around its rushing attack between Derrius Guice (1,153 yards, 11 TDs) and Darrel Williams (776 yards, 9 TDs). Notre Dame doesn’t have a bad rush defense, but it can be beat and that’s what Stanford did against them en route to 152 yards on 4.0 yards per carry. Between Guice and Williams, all signs point to LSU doing the same. Winning this Game with ease will depend on what quarterback Danny Etling can do. He’s simply a Game manager for the Tigers with 14 touchdowns and only two picks, but if he can convert when needed that’s going to be an issue for Notre Dame if it wants to get its defense off the field.
The other side will be an equally fun battle with the Irish also taking a run-first approach behind Josh Adams, who should be 100 percent healthy after dealing with nagging injuries late in the season. He finished with 1,386 yards and nine touchdowns while quarterback Brandon Wimbush was slightly behind with 765 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns. Those guys beat up on everyone early in the season, but Wimbush took a major step back in the Miami loss and hasn’t recovered since. If Wimbush continues to struggle passing the ball, Notre Dame may not do enough offensively to win this Game. In the last three Games, Wimbush has completed less than 50 percent of his passes to go with Four interceptions. If he can’t figure things out, this one could go similar to the 38-20 loss to Stanford. This Game will be a battle between two similar teams, but LSU had more confidence late in the year and is slightly easier to trust.
The Fighting Irish are 1-4 ATS in their last five bowl Games and haven’t covered in their last Four against a team with a winning record. The Tigers have covered in their last six overall and the under is 5-2-1 in their last eight Games out of conference.
Our Pick – Notre Dame +3.5