LSU Tigers (7-5 SU, 5-7 ATS) vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish (8-4 SU, 8-3-1 ATS)
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl Preview
Date and Time: Tuesday December 30th, 2014. 3:00PM EST
Where: LP Field Nashville, T.N.
by Jay, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: LSU -7.5/ND +7.5
Over/Under Total: 52
In years past, the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl has typically featured matchups from teams from the SEC and ACC. However, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish will replace the ACCs bid this year when they meet the LSU Tigers at LP Field on December 30th. The reason the Music City Bowl committee selected Notre Dame over another ACC team was to increase the bowl games reputation and feature two of the top programs in college football. Therefore we will be treated to an interesting pairing between two of college footballs greatest historical programs when the Tigers and Fighting Irish square off in Nashville.
The Fighting Irish were able to get off to a great start in 2014 jumping out to a perfect 6-0 mark. It seemed that Notre Dames season changed with the tough loss to Florida State. The Irish lead in the 4th quarter of that game but allowed the Seminoles to come back in a tough 31-27 loss. The team bounced back with a win against an inferior Navy team the next week but lost their final 4 games of the season following. Notre Dames defense took a few hits before the season began as a few players were ineligible due to academic issues and the defense was rattled with injuries down the stretch as well. Those injuries strained the defensive issues even further and those issues became apparent during the last 4 games of the year as Notre Dame allowed 44.5 points per game on average during that stretch.
Notre Dames defense is still fairly dinged up entering their matchup with LSU so it will be interesting to see if they can slow down the Tigers rushing attack. LSU has not exactly posted outstanding numbers offensively. In fact, LSUs passing offense is among the worse in college football averaging just 163 yards per game and the team has averaged just 27.6 points per game which is only good enough for 75th in the FBS. However, the LSU offense does do a good job of sticking to the Les Miles formula of running the football between the tackles. The Tigers have a big time freshman tailback in Leonard Fournette and a complimentary threat in senior Terrance Magee. Fournette leads the team with 891 yards and 8 touchdowns and both backs have averaged more than 5 yards per carry.
Due to LSUs consistent troubles throwing the football, rest assured that fans will see a heavy dose of the Tigers rushing attack when they take the field in Nashville. As a team, LSU averages 219 yards per game on the ground (29th in FBS) and it will be very telling to see if they can exploit a weakened Notre Dame defense when both side tangle on December 30th. LSU has not performed well at all on offense during the latter part of the season. In fact, LSU averaged just 10 points per game over the final 4 contests. Therefore if the offense is not able to get going again against Notre Dame, they will have a hard time escaping with the victory much less covering the 6.5 point spread.
The good news for LSU fans is despite the offensive concerns, the Tigers still have one of the best defenses in all of college football. LSUs defense ranked 3rd in scoring holding teams to just 16.4 points per game on the season. LSUs defense will face a rather stiff challenge against Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson. Golson put together a pretty solid 2014 campaign with 3,355 passing yards with 29 touchdowns and 14 picks. WR William Fuller was the recipient of the majority of those receiving yards. Fuller posted impressive stats with 71 catches for 1,037 yards and 14 touchdowns. Both guys performances will be vital towards Notre Dames chances of victory in Nashville. Golson especially has to have a big game because LSU is extremely tough against the run and will likely keep running back Tarean Folston bottled up. Therefore if Notre Dame is going to contend, Golson has to have a big game.
Jay’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I think the LSU defense will stymie Notre Dames offense but I am not confident in LSUs offense enough to back the Tigers against the spread. Instead, I really like the under 52 which has been a trend in recent Music City Bowls. In fact, 9 of the last 13 Music City Bowls have went under the total. Take the under 52!