No. 20 LSU Tigers (7-4 SU, 5-6 ATS) vs. No. 13 Louisville Cardinals (8-4 SU, 6-6 ATS)
College Football Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl Preview
Date/Time: Saturday December 31st, 2016. 11:00AM (EST)
Where: Camping World Stadium Orlando, F.L.
by Jay, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: LSU -3/LOU +3
Over/Under Total: 60
The no. 20 LSU Tigers will meet the no. 13 Louisville Cardinals in an interesting matchup inside Camping World Stadium on Saturday December 31st in the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl. This game features one of the best defenses in the nation by way of LSU under new coach Ed Orgeron and one of the most exciting offenses in the country led by Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson. Over the years, the SEC has long touted their prestigious defenses as one of the benchmarks of the conference. That benchmark will be put to the test when the Tigers try to find ways to stop Jackson and the Cardinals in this exciting Citrus Bowl matchup.
If you did not watch the Heisman Trophy Award Show, Jackson’s stats were unprecedented this season with 3,390 passing yards totaling 30 touchdowns with 9 picks along with 1,538 yards on the ground resulting in another 21 touchdowns. Jackson’s 1,538 yards rushing actually ranked 8th in the entire FBS against all rushers. He is just the 3rd player in FBS history with at least 30 passing touchdowns and 20 rushing touchdowns joining elite company with Tim Tebow and Cam Newton. Possibly the most shocking part is that Jackson accomplished all these feats as a sophomore this season and he still has growing potential.
Of course it would not be fair to give Jackson all of the credit for Louisville’s success this year but he is the main reason the Cardinals were able to flirt with the National Championship talk for much of the year. Offensively Jackson has a lot of good players around him with running back Brandon Radcliff and a handful of talented pass catchers in the receiving corps. Therefore, it is going to be very interesting to see how this offense matches up against LSU. The Tigers can man up on the outside with an NFL type talented secondary and they are also extremely tough against the run where they rank 16th in the FBS in rush defense. LSU has the size and speed to make things difficult even for someone as talented as Jackson when Louisville holds the football.
I believe that LSU will play well against this Louisville defense. I really like the way they match up. However for as confident as I am in the LSU defense and I am that much less confident in the Tigers offense. Sure they closed out the year with an impressive 54-39 performance against Texas A&M on the road and beat Arkansas 38-10 on the road before that. However, this is the same offense that was shutout by Alabama at home and then held to just 10 points in the loss to Florida at the end of the year as well. The stagnant offense is what got Les Miles canned to start the year. To be fair, Orgeron did a good job of turning things around shortly thereafter but he still had a few questionable outings at the end of the season even in terms of play calling.
For the life of me, I cannot understand why a program as prestigious as LSU that recruits so well continues to have trouble at the quarterback position. In all honesty, the quarterback play has likely cost the Tigers a potential trip or two to the National Championship in recent years because they have had the supporting cast to get the job done. The same is the case this season as LSU houses the best tandem rushing duo on the college gridiron with Derrius Guice and Leonard Fournette.
The two rushers have combined for more than 2,000 yards and 22 touchdowns in an underachieving offense. WR Malachi Dupre has big play capability but barely gets a chance to show it. All of this is because of the play at the quarterback position which started under Brandon Harris and has transitioned to Danny Etling. Together the two passwers have completed less than 60% passing with 10 touchdowns and 6 picks on the year. Not the greatest stats for a program that is supposed to be in the hunt for an SEC Championship on a near annual basis. Therefore, I am still concerned that LSU could potentially lay another offensive egg in a game that they will have to score points to beat Louisville.
Jay's Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I am basing my decision based off trends. LSU closed out the year playing well covering in 5 of their last 7 games ATS. Meanwhile Louisville finished on a run that covered just once in their last 5 games ATS. As long as LSU avoids any further offensive collapse, I like their defense to contain the Cardinals and they should score enough to get the job done even if it is by the ground game alone. Take LSU -3
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