Staff predictions: Citrus Bowl
Observer Sports Staff | Sunday, December 31, 2017
Ben Padanilam, Editor-in-Chief
It’s been over a month since Notre Dame last took the field. And it didn’t exactly have a ton of momentum heading into that month, having lost two of its last three games.
The Irish didn’t seem to pick up much momentum during that month-long break either, seeing four players suspended ahead of Monday’s Citrus Bowl — including Kevin Stepherson and Alize Mack — and losing Chase Claypool to injury. That has had some asking how the Irish will move the ball downfield against LSU.
But Notre Dame doesn’t need to throw the football to beat the Tigers. In Notre Dame’s three biggest wins this season — Michigan State, USC and NC State — Wimbush did not surpass 20 pass attempts. They won the game in the trenches and built a game plan that didn’t require Wimbush — who only completed 50 percent of his passes and threw for 224 combined yards in the latter two wins after the team’s bye week — to win them games. And it was a game plan that vaulted the Irish into the thick of playoff contention.
If the Irish ask Wimbush to win Monday’s matchup with the Tigers for them, it won’t happen. But it doesn’t need to happen either. The best we saw this Irish team was in its two games after its bye, when it had extra time to prepare its quarterback and rest up Josh Adams and the nation’s best offensive line. A month layoff gives Brian Kelly and Chip Long the opportunity to do just that, and to do it against an LSU defense without three of its starting linebackers — and 127 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss and 11 sacks as a result. When USC was missing key contributors in its front seven off the bye, the Irish offense took advantage. And the healthy Irish defense has shown an ability to slow down strong rushing attacks, which will put a lot of pressure on a weak LSU passing attack.
I expect the time for preparation to be a much needed spark and the Irish to make a similar statement — though not quite as large — to the ones it made in late October.
FINAL SCORE — Notre Dame 27, LSU 23
Marek Mazurek, Assistant Managing Editor
Notre Dame and LSU appear to be playing a game of “How many players can we lose before the game?” The Irish will be without sophomore wide receiver Chase Claypool and freshman tight end Brock Wright dues to injuries. However, junior tight end Alize Mack, sophomore wide receiver Kevin Stepherson, sophomore running back Deon McIntosh and freshman running back C.J. Holmes all will be absent from the sidelines due to suspensions.
Not to be outdone, three of LSU’s four linebackers are out with injuries and offensive coordinator Matt Canada is on his way out, so how much effort he puts into the game plan is anyone’s guess.
For all the negative momentum Notre Dame brings into Monday’s matchup, Brian Kelly led the team to a win in the Music City Bowl against LSU in 2014. This time though, Kelly won’t be able to get Notre Dame in the right mindset against a more athletic team.
Final score: LSU 27, Notre Dame 24
Elizabeth Greason, Sports Editor
I have placed (and misplaced) a lot of faith in this Irish squad all year. However, the Irish have proven themselves unable to come through when it mattered this season, with embarrassing losses at Miami (FL) and Stanford.
Final score: LSU 35, Notre Dame 21
Final Score: Notre Dame 31, LSU 21