Notre Dame v. #23 LSU
LP Field — Nashville, TN
December 30, 2014 — 3:00 pm Eastern (ESPN)
Why You Should Watch
You get to see a rematch of the 2007 Sugar Bowl, and it’s always fun to watch two teams that have prior bowl history squaring off once again. This is also a contest between two teams that harbored College Football Playoff dreams entering the 2014 season but imploded down the stretch. Motivation is always a factor in these sorts of games, which means you might see the sort of hits like the infamous one rendered by Jadeveon Clowney in the Outback Bowl two years ago. Which one will be more likely to lay out those hits, though, and which is better suited to emerge with a bowl victory on the other side of this showdown? Answering that question is the main reason you’ll want to watch this pre-New Year’s thriller.
What Each Team Brings to the Table
It almost feels odd to think that Notre Dame was a national title contender earlier this year. The Fighting Irish are two years removed from their appearance in the BCS championship game, and went undefeated in the first half of this season. Their narrow, controversial loss at Florida State dealt the first loss, but a rebound against Navy the next week seemed to right the ship. An 11-1 Irish squad would have merited consideration for the CFP final four. Instead, Notre Dame dropped their last four games to back into a trip to Nashville for bowl season. Everett Golson has regressed from his title-game form after being forced to sit a season for off-field issues, and yet the team lives and dies by its passing game. The defense allowed over 400 total yards and 29 points per game, putting even more pressure on an offense that could never depend on a young backfield that was headlined by inconsistent sophomore Tarean Folston.
The myth of reloading rather than retooling always eventually catches up to a team, and that was essentially what happened to LSU this season after winning 10 or more games each of the past four years while losing tons of talent in the NFL draft each spring. The team only had 12 returning starters, and it showed as the Tigers finished fifth in the SEC West. But there was also plenty to like about LSU’s performance this year. Freshman sensation Leonard Fournette and senior Terrence Magee were the leaders of a running-back rotation that averaged nearly 220 yards a game against a schedule that included defensively-stout Wisconsin in the season opener. The defense, despite replacing a slew of experienced players throughout the two-deep, was ranked eighth nationally in yards allowed and third in points conceded. At worst they’ve developed a new crew of talent for next year, and they could still finish with nine wins for the ninth time in Les Miles’ decade as head coach.
What is Likely to Happen
The beginning of November seems light years away. At that time LSU was a 7-2 contender preparing for a home game against Alabama and Notre Dame was a 7-1 heavyweight getting ready for a trip to face Arizona State. Now they’re national afterthoughts fighting for shreds of pride. The Fighting Irish are in a greater state of dysfunction, with Brian Kelly considering a switch at quarterback and unable to count on his defense. The Mad Hatter should have a field day, and this game could end with a final score rather similar to the other two bowl games these two teams have played against one another. Look for Fournette to have a big game on the ground as he positions himself for a possible Heisman campaign next season, and the Tiger defense to feast on an overmatched opponent.
LSU 31, Notre Dame 7