LSU Tigers vs Notre Dame Fighting Irish: Q&A with Slap The Sign


As we look ahead to tomorrow’s LSU Tigers vs Notre Dame Fighting Irish matchup in the Music City Bowl, we sat down with Andrew Hall, the editor at Slap The Sign, the Notre Dame fan site on the Fansided network. Andrew was kind enough to answer our questions in regard to the game.

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Death Valley Voice (DVV): Talk about Notre Dame’s season.  The Fighting Irish started 6-0, and it seemed as though qualifying for the CFP wasn’t a far-fetched idea.  Then the season went south, with losses in five of the next six, including several games where the defense allowed huge numbers.  Has the season met the initial expectations? 

Slap The Sign (STS): Notre Dame’s final record meets some of the initial expectations. Many experts placed Notre Dame’s record somewhere between 7-5 or 9-3. However, fans perceive this season as a failure because of 4 straight losses to finish the season. The loss to Northwestern makes this season look poor. If Notre Dame lost to FSU, ASU, Louisville and USC, all ranked teams, the season overall would be easier to accept.

DVV:  Does Notre Dame have a quarterback controversy heading into this game?  Everett Golson has had an up and down career, putting up great numbers, but at the same time, seemingly becoming a turnover machine. Irish coach Brian Kelly recently said both Golson and backup Malik Zaire will split time in this game.  What are your thoughts about Notre Dame’s quarterback situation?

STS: Quarterback consistency holds Brian Kelly back every year. It does not make a lot of sense. At Cincinnati, every quarterback Kelly touched turned into gold. When Everett Golson is playing well, he is as good as any quarterback in the country. But, his bad is really BAD. Zaire brings an added dimension into the game with his running ability. Golson will likely start against LSU but Zaire may come in for a few plays or series. Kelly will probably handle the game like he did in the Champs Sports Bowl against FSU in 2011. Golson will start. Zaire will play in short yardage situations.

DVV:  What does Notre Dame need to do offensively to be successful against LSU, given the Tigers’ strength in pass defense?

STS: Notre Dame needs to do what they should have done all year: commit to running the football from the start of the game. Notre Dame features a relatively solid offensive line, anchored by projected 1st round pick and left tackle Ronnie Stanley. The backfield has three running backs (McDaniel, Folston, Bryant) who all can run the ball effectively. Kelly will need to fight his urge to consistently throw the football against a stingy LSU pass defense. If Notre Dame can do that (huge “if”), they can take shots over the top with home run hitting wide receiver Will Fuller.

DVV:  LSU’s strength on offense is the running game.  Can Notre Dame find success in neutralizing the Tigers’ running attack, thus forcing the Tigers to throw more, an area of weakness on offense for LSU?

STS: Nope. Notre Dame will need to pack 8 or 9 into the box to stop the Tigers. Notre Dame is a little healthier in the front 7 than they were down the stretch of the season. However, many of the players who will see action are still very green players. They need more time in the weight room before they can handle an offensive line that averages over 300 lbs. This matchup is where the game will be won or lost for either team. If Notre Dame can slow the rushing attack, then the Irish will have an excellent opportunity to win. However, it just does not seem like Notre Dame will be able to do this.

 DVV:  What are the overall strengths and weaknesses for Notre Dame this year?

STS: The Irish are extremely talented team despite their 7-5 record. The world outside South Bend only sees the record but Notre Dame flashes frequently. Notre Dame is strong in the skill players department. The Irish can run out several wide receivers and running backs who can make huge plays. These players are sophomore running back Tarean Folston, sophomore wide receiver Will Fuller and sophomore wide receiver Corey Robinson. The issue on offense is turnovers. Everett Golson has turned the ball over 22 times this season, including 14 interceptions.

On defense, Notre Dame was excellent at creating pressure against the quarterback. However, when the Irish lost Joe Schmidt to injury, the team fell off significantly. Injuries have caused Notre Dame’s defense simply to become a sieve. A major weakness on the team is kicking. At some point during the season, Notre Dame struggled with different parts of kicking a field goal (or even extra point). Senior kicker Kyle Brindza has lost all confidence at this point.

DVV:  Who are three Notre Dame players that LSU fans need to keep an eye on?

STS: LSU fans should keep an eye on sophomore and Butkus Award Finalist Jaylon Smith, sophomore back-up running back Greg Bryant and Junior defensive tackle Sheldon Day. Smith may be the best player on the field tomorrow. His athleticism is rare. It should flash at some point during the game. Bryant, although at times frustrating, is a big play waiting to happen. Day, injured against Northwestern, will return for the bowl game. His quickness inside could help Notre Dame slow down the LSU rushing attack.

DVV:  What’s your final score prediction?

STS: Notre Dame 17 – LSU 28