The 2018 Citrus Bowl pits two brand name teams against each other. The LSU Tigers and Notre Dame Fighting Irish both come into the game with 9-3 records. The Tigers will be in their final game with offensive coordinator Matt Canada, as he is parting ways with the school following the game. For the Irish, head coach Brian Kelly has turned the program around from their 4-8 finish in 2016. This match-up brings forth star players from both teams. The game will be an intriguing match-up as we kick off 2018. The game kicks at Noon Central Time on ESPN on January 1st.
2018 Citrus Bowl Preview: Tigers and Irish Clash
For LSU, this game has a lot of meaning. Canada will leave following the game, and it will be interesting to see how he handles this situation. There has been some tension between him and head coach Ed Orgeron throughout the 2017 season. Canada was brought in to fix the offense and provide a new-look scheme for Danny Etling, Derrius Guice, and company. But much of this new offense was not showcased, and Orgeron eventually got tired of it. Bringing in “elite” coordinators is what Orgeron said he was going to do. And Canada is a valuable offensive coordinator. But the storyline for the game goes way beyond that.
Apart from Canada’s departure, quarterback Etling will be playing his final game as a Tiger. The senior has done a tremendous job handling the offense, and Tiger nation rallied around him and the team during the worst of times this season. Also of note, this could be the final game for star running back Derrius Guice, who is projected to enter the 2018 NFL Draft following the game.
On the defensive side for the Tigers, Arden Key, Donnie Alexander, and Corey Thompson will all be out for this one. Those three players are just a few of the pivotal playmakers on this elite Tigers defense. But even without three starters, LSU should be just fine on defense. The Tigers will have to stop the Irish’s effective rushing attack, led by Josh Adams. LSU’s rush defense has been peaking at times this season, though. Defensive coordinator Dave Aranda will have a well drawn out plan to stop Adams and the lethal Irish rushing game.
Notre Dame’s Success
Switching to the Notre Dame side, the Irish are led by Adams, who is an absolute stud at running back. He was in the Heisman polls at some points throughout the season, but fell off after an injury. Kelly will bring a tremendously talented Irish team into this game, however. What Notre Dame has accomplished this season cannot go unnoticed. They did have a few close losses, including the 20-19 loss to the College Football Playoff Bound Georgia Bulldogs. The Irish have flipped the script and righted the ship this season. Finishing the regular season at 9-3 potentially saved Kelly’s job in South Bend after the way their 2016 season finished.
Defensively for the Irish, they will have to deal with Guice carrying the load in the backfield for LSU. If he gets into open space, the Notre Dame secondary better watch out. Guice is such an elusive running back with a huge upside. These teams did play in the Music City Bowl back in 2014. The Irish won that match-up using a two-quarterback system. This time around, the Irish defense will have to be on their heels in order to keep the Tigers from racking up points.
This match-up brings an intriguing look from both the Tigers and the Irish. These two teams have stellar defenses and above average offenses. The 2018 Citrus Bowl will be one for the ages. This game has a ton of meaning to both programs. LSU and Notre Dame have become two of the most relevant programs in college football throughout their respective history. The two teams share many national championships between them. 2018 will be started off the right way for these two squads as they seek a crucial bowl win to go along with their 10th win of the season.