Two famed college football programs look to finish off their seasons with a bowl victory when the No. 22 LSU Tigers (8-4, 4-4 SEC) and Notre Dame Fighting Irish (7-5) meet in the Music City Bowl at LP Field in Nashville on Tuesday afternoon.
Neither school finished the regular season strong, especially Notre Dame. The Irish were off to an excellent start in 2014, winning their first six games before falling on Oct. 18 to No. 2 Florida State in a tight battle in Tallahassee, 31-27. Brian Kelly’s squad would hold off Navy in the following game, but would drop the next four, including a thumping to rival USC at the Coliseum on Nov. 29, 49-14.
Kelly has decided to start Malik Zaire at quarterback. The sophomore completed nine of his 20 passes against USC, and also rushed for 18 yards. Senior Everett Golson, who started every game for the Irish, is also expected to receive playing time. Turnovers have been a major problem for Notre Dame this season, and Golson has thrown 14 interceptions. He was replaced by Zaire against the Trojans, having completed just seven of 18 passes for 75 yards and a pick.
While the running game has averaged just 150.8 yards (No. 84 in the nation), top rusher Tarean Folston has come on strong with an increased number of carries in the second half of the season. Through the first six games, Folston rushed for a total of just 263 yards, but the sophomore rushed for 553 yards in the next six games.
The Notre Dame defense, which had its struggles during a the four-game losing streak, welcomes back Sheldon Day. The junior defensive lineman was sidelined in losses to Louisville and USC, but is expected to be at full strength against LSU. Starting cornerback Cody Riggs is also expected be to be on the field against the Tigers.
LSU lost two of their last three games after owning a 7-2 record. The Tigers finished fifth in the highly competitive SEC West, after losses to Mississippi State, Auburn, Alabama and Arkansas. The passing game has looked out of rhythm for much of the season. Quarterback Anthony Jennings completed just 48.8 percent of his passes, and also threw seven interceptions compared to just 10 touchdowns.
Running back Leonard Fournette leads the LSU ground game. The freshman has rushed for 891 yards, and is coming off a career game in which he ran for 146 yards on 19 carries against Texas A&M. The Tigers are 4-0 when Fournette rushes for at least 100 yards, and he is averaging just 42 yards per game in the team's four losses.
Once again, Les Miles boasts an impressive defense. LSU allowed just 16.4 points per games this season, shutting out two opponents, and limiting three others to 10 points or less. The Tigers also led the country in defensive passing efficiency (98.7 yards).
Miles is expected to have his full focus on the bowl game, with no rumors linking him to the Michigan vacancy. Multiple reports have the Wolverines set to hire former San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh this week.
This is the tenth meeting between LSU and Notre Dame, with the series tied, 5–5.
Start Time: 3:00 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Live Stream: WatchESPN
Point Spread: LSU favored by 7.5 points
Over/Under: 52.5 points
Prediction: LSU over Notre Dame, 28-17
An IB Times staff reporter contributed to this report.