As we head into bowl season, MTS’ cadre of experts will be previewing the best matchups on tap for college football’s postseason. We’ll also look at the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl because it exists and you can bet on it. So stick with us all the way from the AFR Celebration Bowl on Dec. 17 to the national championship game on Jan. 9.
Let’s take a closer look at …
The Citrus Bowl: No. 19 LSU vs. No. 15 Louisville (+3)
Sat. Dec. 31, 2016 (11:00 AM Eastern) at Camping World Stadium, Orlando, FL.
(Get the scoop on the Russell Athletic Bowl and Rose Bowl.)
At $4.25 million per school, the Citrus Bowl has the largest payout to teams among all games not involved in the College Football Playoff.
This marks the 25th consecutive season that a Big 10 opponent is meeting an SEC foe in the Citrus Bowl. The SEC is 14-10 and saw a five-game winning streak snapped last year when Florida was destroyed by Michigan.
The only two teams who have played in at least three editions of the game and remain unbeaten are Toledo (3-0) and East Texas State (3-0-1).
A Closer Look at LSU (7-4 SU, 5-6 ATS)
America’s favorite interim coach now has a full time gig. After Les Miles was fired in late September, Ed Orgeron was handed the keys in Baton Rogue. When LSU failed to lure John Gruden, Jimbo Fisher, or Tom Herman to town, Coach O was given the full time gig. He went 5-2 after Miles was dismissed with wins over Arkansas, Ole Miss, and Texas A&M among others, and losses to Alabama and Florida.
Orgeron has never been the head coach during a bowl game. His three year tenure at Ole Miss included a 10-25 mark and just three wins in 24 SEC games. In his brief time as the USC boss, he went 6-2.
LSU beat Texas Tech 56-27 in the Texas Bowl last year. They are 24-22-1 all time in postseason games. The Tigers have dropped four of their last seven bowl games after winning four straight including the National Title game in 2007.
This year the Bayou Bengals were stingy on defense, allowing just 16.4 points a game. The offense tallied 31.1 points a contest, with running backs Leonard Fournette and Derrius Guice providing the bulk of the explosive plays. They had to play a handful of games without Fournette due to injury and they’ll need to lean on that experience in the Citrus Bowl as the top prospect is sitting out the game to protect his draft stock.
A Closer Look at Louisville (9-3 SU, 5-6-1 ATS)
Bobby Petrino is a divisive character. On one hand, he is really good at winning football games. On the other hand, he has had his share of issues (secretly interviewing to be the head coach at LSU while they still had a coach, leaving the Atlanta Falcons during in-season to take a job at Arkansas, crashing a motorcycle with his mistress on-board). For those of us just counting dollars and cents, he’s 109-42 overall and 5-4 in bowl games.
Led by Heisman Trophy-winner Lamar Jackson, the Cardinals raced out to a 4-0 record this year. After a 42-36 loss to Clemson, Louisville racked up five more victories. However, they slumped down the stretch falling to Houston 36-10, and Kentucky 41-38. Their only win over a ranked opponent was a 43-point victory at home over Florida State in September.
Jackson accounted for nearly 5,000 yards during the regular season and 51 touchdowns. Louisville’s offense ranked among the top 15 in the nation both running and throwing the ball. Their 45.3 points a game was best in the country. The defense, which was expected to be the stregth of the team heading into the year, largely held up its end of the bargain, allowing only 14 PPG.
Who Should You Back?
There is a temptation to side with the SEC team that played the tougher schedule. However, Petrino is the much more accomplished coach, the Cardinals have the best player in the game, LSU will be missing its own top dog, and the ACC had a surprisingly good season.
The question comes down to: do you prefer Louisville’s offense or LSU’s defense? Defense may win championships, but the winner of the Citrus Bowl has scored 30 points or more in six straight playings. Let’s take the points, the best player, and the better sideline guru.
Photo Credit: Thecoiner [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons