Though the College Football Playoff games will obviously steal most of the hype on New Year’s Day, the Citrus Bowl is going to be a really good one, too. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the LSU Tigers will descend upon Orlando for one of the biggest games of the bowl season.
LSU Bowl History
The Bayou Bengals played in the Citrus Bowl last season, winning this game over Louisville. Lamar Jackson had just won the Heisman Trophy, and it was remarkable to see him totally stymied by the LSU defense.
LSU has had a mixed bag in the bowl season in the past, but the team has won eight of its last 12 appearances. The Tigers are playing in the postseason for the 18th straight year. Outside of the Texas Bowl in 2015 and the Music City Bowl in 2014, all of the games the Tigers have played in during this span have been played on New Year’s Eve or later.
Notre Dame Bowl History
Notre Dame had a disastrous season last year, ending a six-year run of playing in bowl games. The Fighting Irish are back, though, playing in a major New Year’s game for the second time in three years.
The Golden Domers are just 4-12 in their last 16 bowl appearances dating back to 1994. In that span, they’ve gone 0-7 in the bowl games that are currently a part of the New Year’s Six.
Why LSU Will Win the Citrus Bowl
LSU wasn’t in the National Championship discussion at any point this year, but when it was at its best, it was on the back of its defense. This unit ranks No. 12 in the land in yards per game allowed and No. 15 in scoring defense.
The Tigers have some problems on offense, but they definitely have some talent. Derrius Guice is going to be a go for this game after getting dinged up at the end of the regular season. He and Darrel Williams make a formidable backfield.
For as much grief as Tigers fans give Danny Etling and want to see him benched, he’s the best option that they have. Furthermore, Etling averaged 9.2 yards per pass attempt and only tossed two picks in 2017. He’s not as mobile as Ed Orgeron would want for his offense, but he’s getting the job done.
Why Notre Dame Will Win the Citrus Bowl
Notre Dame’s ground game is one of the best in the country. Brandon Wimbush is a great running quarterback, and Josh Adams had a borderline Heisman Trophy campaign before things fell apart at the end of the season.
With Arden Key out of the lineup, the Bayou Bengals are missing their biggest piece to the puzzle defensively. Notre Dame could take advantage of that and have a big game offensively.
Let’s not forget that Wimbush isn’t a bad passer either. He threw for 1,818 yards and 16 touchdowns against six interceptions. A completion percentage of 49.8 percent isn’t good, but he makes up for it with his legs for sure.
Citrus Bowl Prediction
Notre Dame just didn’t play well down the stretch of the season. The Fighting Irish were dumped by Miami in South Beach, could have easily been beaten by Navy at home a week later, then fell apart early in the fourth quarter against Stanford to end the regular season. For a team that was three wins away from the College Football Playoff, this drop was tremendous.
Orgeron has a good history in the bowl season, and we just flat out don’t trust Notre Dame here. This should be a second consecutive Citrus Bowl victory so long as Etling doesn’t blow it for LSU.
Citrus Bowl Pick: LSU 30, Notre Dame 20
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