This is very significant for one reason; it’s the first time in the entire 2017 NCAA Division I FBS football season that the odds at SBG Global.eu have not favored Our Lady of the Lake. And it wasn’t cupcake city, either; no Wisconsin-level strength-of-schedule here.
The Irish played five ranked teams (Georgia, USC, NC State, Miami, and Stanford), one of which, Georgia, made it to the College Football Playoff, and against which Notre Dame had an early setback, none of that impeded the Irish from always being the favorite. Until, that is, now.
Then again, it’s not as if the current state of affairs was a sudden occurrence. The Irish did stumble toward the end of the season, losing rivalry games to Miami and Stanford, and scoring just 17.3 points per game while allowing 32 in their last three regular season contests.
Meanwhile, star running back Josh Adams has averaged 54.3 rushing yards per game in the last five games, a noticeable decrease from 146 in the first eight. None of the above bodes well for Notre Dame going up against LSU, which ranks 26th in rushing yards allowed per game, and which has held opposing rushers to 3.8 yards per attempt. Hey, when you pay your defensive coordinator $1,800,000, which is to say, more than any other assistant coach in all of college football-dom, your defense better be as impenetrable as the monolith in 2001.
On the offensive side of things, running back Derrius Guice has 371 rushing yards and 5 scores in the Tigers’ last three games. Back in 2016 Guice said he would skip his senior year and go straight to the NFL, but has since backtracked, saying he will only make a decision after the Citrus Bowl. All of which is nothing but a convoluted way of saying that it doesn’t seem as if Guice plans to miss the Bowl, as is all the rage nowadays among first round draft prospects.
Moreover, Guice expressed his discontent about being named to the second-team All-SEC selection. All things considered, he just might enter the game against Notre Dame feeling as if he has something to prove. And he just might prove it, too.
Notre Dame plays, as we all know, as an independent, so in a way the Citrus Bowl qualifies as their conference championship game. “We're thrilled with the opportunity and excited about the challenge that awaits us with LSU — one of the premier programs in all of college football,” head coach Brian Kelly said. “We had quite a battle with the Tigers a few years ago in a bowl game, and I'd expect a similar contest this time around.”
The Irish and the Tigers have met 11 times in the past, three in Bowl games, but this will be their first tilt in the Citrus Bowl, in which Notre Dame has never appeared before.