Tuesday, December 30, 2014
Cram Session - Bowl Edition
Notre Dame (7-5) vs. #23 LSU (8-4), in Nashville, TN
Some teams are happy to earn a trip to a bowl game, as it gives them a chance to go into the off-season with a good feeling. But as a Notre Dame fan, this just feels like another opportunity to be embarrassed. Notre Dame comes into the Music City Bowl having lost four straight games and now have to face usual SEC powerhouse LSU. The Tigers aren't much of a powerhouse this season, but it is hard to feel like Notre Dame has any real chance of winning this game, especially with how poorly they played the last month of the season.
The Irish's current losing streak is an entire team effort. They have turned the ball over constantly on offense, and defensively, they have stopped no one. The Irish defense has given up 30+ points in their past seven games. Everett Golson has been such a turnover machine that Brian Kelly is electing to start Malik Zaire at quarterback in this game. Golson will likely see some playing time as well, but I like the decision to start Zaire. Golson is a senior and Zaire is the potential future starting quarterback and only a sophomore. A bowl game is a perfect opportunity to get him some real action on the field. Zaire saw a lot of action in Notre Dame's last game, a blowout loss at USC. He struggled with his accuracy, so that will be something to watch today. RB Tarean Folston was a bright spot in Notre Dame's lost season. In games that Notre Dame was actually competitive in down the stretch, Folston became the Irish's lead back they had been looking for. LSU has had problems stopping the run at times, so if Notre Dame can keep this game close, then Folston will have a chance to make an impact. Sophomore WR William Fuller and sophomore Corey Robinson are both two excellent receivers that Notre Dame will have at their disposal next year. Fuller has 14 touchdowns this season and had a touchdown in every game but two this year.
Tigers quarterback Anthony Jennings has struggled all year with his accuracy, completing less than 50% of his passes. Where Jennings likely will give the terrible Irish defense fits is with his legs. Jennings can take off at any time, and Notre Dame has been burned by quarterbacks like that this season. The Tigers also have strong running backs in freshman Leonard Fournette and senior Terrence Magee. LSU likes to wear teams out with the run, and if they dominate with their rushing attack today, that will leave Notre Dame susceptible to the big plays in the passing game. Sophomore Travin Dural is the only receiver worth watching for LSU, but after a strong start to the season, he hasn't produced much as of late.
I think Kelly should stick with Zaire at quarterback for as long as he is playing alright. If he tries to switch between Zaire and Golson too much, it will screw up the flow of the offense. I also think that Folston should be the focus of the gameplan, as he is less likely to turn the ball over. I think LSU will overpower Notre Dame's defensive line and run all over the Irish, and the defense won't get enough stops to give Notre Dame a true chance in this game.
Prediction: LSU 40, Notre Dame 26