LSU Tigers vs Notre Dame Fighting Irish: Featured Matchups, Part 1


The Music City Bowl is just around the corner, and the LSU Tigers will be traveling to Nashville today to continue with preparations for the game with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

Check out LSU’s complete bowl game schedule here, and Death Valley Voice’s initial game preview here.

More from LSU Football

As has been the case throughout the football season, Death Valley Voice will provide some game analysis, including featured matchups. We will divide this into two parts. Today, we will look at the LSU offense vs. the Notre Dame defense. Tomorrow, the LSU defense vs. the Notre Dame offense.

LSU offense vs. Notre Dame defense

LSU averages 383 yards per game on offense (80th nationally, 10th SEC). Notre Dame allows 402 yards per game (71st nationally).

LSU’s mantra on offense is to run, run, and run some more. There’s really no surprise here, as this has been the case since the Florida game. At that stage of the season, Les Miles and Cam Cameron said that the running game will be LSU’s identity on offense. For the most part, dedicating itself to the running game has been successful for LSU.

The Tigers have the 29th best running game in the nation, and fifth best in the SEC, averaging 219.5 rushing yards per game. LSU has been able to put up some big numbers on SEC teams that feature strong run defenses.

Here’s a look at LSU’s game-by-game rushing yardage stats:

  • vs. Wisconsin, 47-126
  • vs. Sam Houston State, 58-334
  • vs. ULM, 52-219
  • vs. Mississippi State, 35-89
  • vs. New Mexico State, 54-363
  • at Auburn, 36-138
  • at Florida, 50-195
  • vs. Kentucky, 51-303
  • vs. Ole Miss, 55-264
  • vs. Alabama, 56-183
  • at Arkansas, 32-36
  • at Texas A&M, 57-384

So, in looking at the “back end” of the season (“Les Miles-speak”), and if you throw out the Arkansas game, it is evident that LSU’s bread and butter is to run and putting up those numbers against the likes of Florida, Ole Miss, and Alabama was no easy feat. Those three teams entered the LSU games featuring top rushing defenses, and LSU found success in pounding the rock.

There’s no reason to think that LSU won’t enjoy this same success against Notre Dame. The Irish enter this contest allowing 161.7 rushing yards per game, which ranks as 64th nationally. Plus, Notre Dame will be without three of its best players up front, all of whom are out with injuries. This includes two Irish defensive linemen, Jarron Jones and Sheldon Day, and their senior linebacker, Joe Schmidt. The LSU offensive line, led by All-America La’el Collins, should be able to win the battles in the trenches.

Freshman star Leonard Fournette had his coming out party in the Florida game, and he leads the Tigers with 891 yards on 176 carries. Look for Fournette to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark against Notre Dame. The LSU “four-headed monster” out of the backfield will be intact as Kenny Hilliard (431 yards) will return from his injury suffered against Alabama, joining Terrence Magee (545 yards) and Darrel Williams (280 yards).

Don’t forget that the LSU quarterbacks have running ability as well. Anthony Jennings ran for a career-high 119 yards against Texas A&M, and is fourth on the team (behind Fournette, Magee, and Hilliard) with 284 yards. Jennings successfully ran the read-option in the Texas A&M game, and look for Cam Cameron to continue where he left off play calling-wise. This includes additional wrinkles, such as jet sweeps with wide receiver Travin Dural.

The Irish defense also has had its troubles in pass defense, allowing 239.8 passing yards per game, 85th nationally. Look for LSU to have success throwing the ball against Notre Dame, even considering the Tigers’ passing woes (163.9 yards per game, ranking 116th nationally, and last in the SEC). Regardless of who is playing quarterback for LSU, there should be little problem getting the ball to the Tigers talented corps of wide receivers.

The only question for LSU is whether Brandon Harris gets some playing time, and if so, how much.