No. 14 Notre Dame (9-3) vs. No. 17 LSU (9-3)
Jan. 1, 1 p.m. ET, Orlando (ABC)
LSU -3, O/U: 52
HOW THESE TEAMS GOT HERE
Notre Dame: Notre Dame shook off an early one-point home loss to Georgia by reeling off seven straight wins. At 8-1 and ranked No. 3, the Irish were firmly in the College Football Playoff mix heading into a road matchup with No. 7 Miami. It did not go very well. The Irish were manhandled by the Hurricanes, 41-8, and their CFP hopes were dashed. Notre Dame then split its last two games, beating Navy but losing on the road to Stanford. Still, the season provided a much-needed turnaround from last year’s 4-8 disaster.
LSU: There were some rocky moments early in Ed Orgeron’s first season as head coach. LSU was blown out by Mississippi State and lost at home to Troy in its 3-2 start to the year. But from there, the Tigers won six of their final seven games with the only loss coming at Alabama. Along the way, the Tigers registered an upset of Auburn and scored more than 30 points in four of their last five games. Despite the improved offensive play, the Citrus Bowl is expected to be the last game at LSU for offensive coordinator Matt Canada. Orgeron reportedly wants to go in another direction.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Josh Adams, RB, Notre Dame: Josh Adams rushed for 118 yards or more in six of his team’s first eight games and entered the month of November with 1,169 rushing yards. He was being talked about as a Heisman candidate, but his production dropped off down the stretch. He was banged up and had just 22 yards against Wake Forest, but combined for 195 yards on 54 carries over the Irish’s final three games. LSU is dealing with some injuries on defense, especially at linebacker, so perhaps he and QB Brandon Wimbush — more of a running threat than a passing threat — can get the ground attack going behind the Irish’s veteran offensive line.
Derrius Guice, RB, LSU: Guice averaged nearly eight yards per carry during his first two seasons in college. He has been banged up throughout the year and played behind a youthful offensive line, so that production dropped off a bit, but he’s still one of the most talented backs in the country. Guice enters the Citrus Bowl with 1,153 yards and 11 touchdowns on 216 carries — a 5.3-yard average. He’s closing in on 3,000 rushing yards for his career despite backing up Leonard Fournette in 2015 and 2016. This could be his final game in an LSU uniform, too.
WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH: If you like running the ball and good defensive play, this is the bowl game for you. Both teams rely on run-heavy offenses to move the ball with Notre Dame ranking No. 7 nationally in rushing offense and LSU coming in at No. 28. The Citrus Bowl is also a rematch of the 2014 Music City Bowl. Notre Dame won that won 31-28 on a last-second field goal. Hopefully we get another close game.
WHAT’S ON THE LINE: LSU won at least 10 games in seven of Les Miles’ first nine seasons with the program, but the last time it happened was 2013. Getting to 10 wins in Orgeron’s first season as the full-time head coach would be a nice accomplishment, especially in a season that could be considered somewhat of a rebuilding year. It would also be back-to-back Citrus Bowl wins for the Tigers. Notre Dame can also get to 10 wins with a victory — a win total only achieved twice during Brian Kelly’s tenure. I think most Notre Dame fans would be pleased with 10 wins, especially after going 4-8 last year.
Nick: Notre Dame 22, LSU 19
Sam: LSU 27, Notre Dame 24
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