Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. (23) LSU Tigers (-7, 52 o/u)
The Notre Dame Fighting Irish have had a disastrous end to their season. In mid-October, they took a 6-0 record to Tallahassee and almost knocked off the undefeated Seminoles (31-27), despite laying 11.5 in the odds. Since then, the once top-five team has managed just one win (49-39 over Navy), finishing the season at 7-5 and plummeting in the rankings.
Tomorrow, the Irish will try to salvage what they can from the season in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl where they’ll face the No. 23 LSU Tigers (3:00 p.m. Eastern at LP Field in Nashville).
The Irish average 293 passing yards per game (16th in the nation) and 33 points (39th), but have really struggled with turnovers during the late-season decline. After throwing no interceptions in the first three games of the year, senior QB Everett Golson has thrown at least one in the last nine. Golson has 14 picks, total, on the year, and threw a season-high four during a 51-33 loss to Arizona State in early November.
Head coach Brian Kelly hasn’t decided who will start under center for the Irish tomorrow, and is seriously considering giving sophomore Malik Zaire – who replaced Golson midway through the last game of the regular season against USC – the start.
“I haven’t made the decision on who the starter is yet,” Kelly said following a practice, according to Inside the Irish. “Both are getting quality reps. I probably have to make it here in the next few hours. They’re both going to play, and I’m just going to have to just get a feel for it and the flow of the game.”
The LSU Tigers finished the season at 8-4. After dropping mid-season games to Mississippi State and Auburn, the Tigers won three straight, upping their record to 7-2, and looked to have righted the ship. In early November, they hosted then-No. 5 Alabama and took the Tide to OT before falling 20-13. That loss must have stuck with the Tigers, as they were blanked by Arkansas, 17-0, the next week, to fall to 7-4.
LSU enters bowl season on a winning note, though, after beating Texas A&M, 24-17, in the last game of the regular season.
Despite giving up 34 points to Mississippi State and 41 to Auburn, the Tigers have the third-best scoring defense in the country, surrendering 16.4 points per game. The defense was able to keep opponents to single digits in six of the Tigers’ eight wins on the year.
On offense, LSU relies on the run game to move the ball, averaging 219.5 yards per game on the ground (29th in the nation), but really struggles in the passing game, putting up just 163.9 yards through the air, on average.
The Tigers are 23–21–1 in bowl games, and won last year’s Outback Bowl (21-14) over Iowa. The Irish, meanwhile, are 16-17 all-time in bowl games, with three wins in the last five. They were routed by Alabama (42-14) in the National Championship game two years ago, but won last year’s Pinstripe Bowl (29-16) over Rutgers.
The odds for the Music City Bowl have LSU as a touchdown favorite and the over/under at 52.
(Photo credit: Andyohsbass09 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.)