Storied programs tangle in Music City
LSU and Notre Dame start on 2015

The 2014 Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl will feature the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the LSU Tigers on Tuesday, December 30 at 2 pm. It is a game matching two storied programs, each with huge expectations left unfulfilled.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish (7-5): #23 LSU Tigers (8-4, 4-4 SEC):
Rice W48-17 vs. Wisconsin W28-24
Michigan W31-0 Sam Houston State W56-0
vs. Purdue W30-14 Louisiana-Monroe W31-0
vs. Syracuse W31-15 Mississippi State L29-34
Stanford W17-14 New Mexico State W63-7
North Carolina W50-43 at Auburn L7-41
at Florida State L27-31 at Florida W30-27
vs. Navy W49-39 Kentucky W41-3
at Arizona State L31-55 Ole Miss W10-7
Northwestern L40-43 (OT) Alabama L13-20 (OT)
Louisville L28-31 at Arkansas L0-17
at Southern California L14-49 at Texas A&M W23-17

Pass Offense: 16th of 128 Pass Offense: 112th of 128
Rush Offense: 80th Rush Offense: 29th
Total Offense: 36th Total Offense: 79th

Pass Defense: 80th Pass Defense: 4th
Rush Defense: 64th Rush Defense: 38th
Total Defense: 70th Total Defense: 8th

LSU always has high expectations in the SEC, but problems at quarterback were the main culprit in the Tigers’ .500 showing this season. Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris split time, with mixed results. This is a team increasingly reliant on running the football and playing trademark stout defense.

Leonard Fournette, the consensus #1 player in the nation out of high school a year ago, adjusted to the SEC game and gained traction down the stretch, a touchdown run against Texas A&M reminding many of some of the game’s greats. Another touted freshman, WR Malachi Dupre, was also slow getting going this season—but ended up with five touchdown catches and in tandem with leading receiver Travin Dural, do provide a potentially potent downfield threat, if they can get the ball to them.

Notre Dame was in the middle of the national championship discussion for the first half of the season starting 6-0. Even when they subsequently lost at Florida State in controversial fashion they were still in the mix, but the cracks were showing. Turnovers, a problem even in starting 6-0, only further spiraled out of control but the defense, not a sign of weakness early, simply fell apart.

In the last game of the 6-0 streak they allowed 43 points and 510 yards to North Carolina. In the Florida State loss they could not get a stop when they needed one, and the games since then were no better with embarrassment stage coming against USC when they allowed seven consecutive touchdown drives. Everett Golson could not take care of the ball, yielding to Malik Zaire at quarterback in the USC game. Each will see playing time in this game.

Each of these squads are looking to this game as more the start of what hopes to be a much better 2015 season than a disappointing 2014 one. Competition is open at the QB position for both, and we should see four play in this game. Notre Dame’s problem with turnovers does not figure to get any better against the LSU defense and you think LSU might be able to get some things done against the ND defense, how to stop Fournette?

It is certainly a glamour matchup as this bowl moves up in the pecking order from past years. There is much national buzz for this game, above what is commonplace for a Notre Dame game. Recent encounters with the SEC have not gone well for the Irish, a trend that should continue. My pick is LSU 23, Notre Dame 20.