The LSU Tigers and the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame will face off in Nashville for the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl.
This bowl game features two major football programs having down years. LSU is 8-4 on the season with a 4-4 record in SEC play; Notre Dame is 7-5 in 2014 and ranks third among FBS Independents.
LSU’s season has been a roller coaster ride. The regular season included a 17-point comeback win against Wisconsin, a shocking loss to Mississippi State at home, a win against then undefeated Ole Miss, a nail-biting overtime loss to Alabama, and a loss to SEC-winless Arkansas. Somehow through the mess that was the LSU season, they ended up with the top defense in the SEC and one of the best in the country. The Tigers have one of the best pass defenses in the country and have lived up to the hype that is “DBU.”
Their offense, however, is a much different story. With the losses of Odell Beckham Jr, Jeremy Hill, Jarvis Landry, and Zach Mettenberger to the NFL, the Tigers were going to be experimenting all season. With lots of inexperience everywhere besides the offensive line, LSU struggled to get anything going all season. Quarterback Anthony Jennings was one of the worst quarterbacks in the SEC and LSU heavily relied on the run game for success. Luckily, LSU has backs like freshman Leonard Fournette and seniors Terrance Magee and Kenny Hilliard to feed the ball to for four quarters.
Notre Dame’s season started very promising after going 6-0. With a questionable pick call, Notre Dame fell to Florida State, and the dominoes continued to fall. The Fighting Irish finished the season on a four game losing streak, including a bad loss to Northwestern and blow-out losses to USC and Arizona State. In those games, they gave up nearly 900 yards rushing and nine touchdowns on the ground. Everett Golson looked like a promising Heisman candidate early in the season, but his late season struggles have triggered head coach Brian Kelly into starting freshman Malik Zaire against LSU. One of Notre Dame’s few bright spots has been receiver Will Fuller. Fuller has hauled in 15 touchdowns and should be targeted often by inexperienced Zaire against the pass-denying LSU Tigers.
LSU strength offensively is their run game and that is one of Notre Dame’s biggest weaknesses on the defensive end. Both teams struggle at quarterback, but Zaire is going to be tested against the arguably the best secondary in the nation. Although he is talented, I do not see him being successful against the Tigers defense. Look for Leonard Fournette to be the feature back for LSU. Fournette only needs 109 yards to surpass 1,000 yards rushing on the season.
Prediction: LSU 24 ND 13
*Section Photo credit to Jonathan Daniel, Getty Images; Featured Photo (above) credit to Derick E. Hingle, USA Today Sports