Bowl season is upon us once again. This year the Louisville football team visits Orlando, FL., to take on the Tigers of Louisiana State University in the 2016 Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl. #13 Louisville and #20 LSU is one of the more highly anticipated bowl games of the season after many games have been blowouts so far.
A Look at the Teams LSU comes into the Citrus Bowl at 7-4. The Tigers started off the season with a two-point loss at Wisconsin. Their second loss came a few weeks later at Auburn. Their other losses came at home to Alabama and Florida.
LSU's offense has been an up-and-down team all season, scoring as high as 54 points and as low as zero points. Junior Leonard Fournette and sophomore Derrius Guice have powered the offense with over 2,100 rushing yards and 22 touchdowns between them. However, Fournette will not participate in the bowl game in order to prepare for the NFL Draft. The Tigers will rely heavily on Guice as their main running back for the game.
Passing has been second choice for LSU all season. Quarterback Danny Etling has only thrown 240 passes, and completed 144 of them, for 1906 yards and nine touchdowns. Etling also has four interceptions on the year. His favorite target has been receiver Malachi Dupre with 34 receptions, 454 yards, and three touchdowns.
The Tigers have allowed opponents only 1,340 yards on the ground, but have given up 2,213 yards in the air. Opposing teams have scored 16 touchdowns all season against a tough LSU defense. Their weakness has been on fourth down conversions where opponents have converted 53% of the time.
Louisville is captained by Heisman winning quarterback Lamar Jackson. Jackson had a breakout game in last season's Music City Bowl against Texas A&M. He has passed for 3,390 yards with 30 touchdowns. on the ground, Jackson has rushed for 1,538 yards and 21 touchdowns.
Jackson has had help on the ground thanks to running backs Brandon Radcliff and Jeremy Smith. The two have combined for 1,290 yards and 14 touchdowns. Smith and Radcliff have also played a role in the passing game, having caught numerous passes and a receiving touchdown for each of them.
In the passing game Cole Hikutini has had an excellent season. The senior tight end has 49 receptions for 656 yards and eight touchdowns. Senior wide receiver James Quick has been another primary target. He's accumulated 42 receptions for 688 yards and six touchdowns. Jaylen Smith and Jamari Staples have also played a role in the passing game. Reggie Bonnafon has been a top target in the red zone. He has 13 receptions for five touchdowns.
What to Watch for LSU will have a game plan to run the ball until Louisivlle's defense is ready to collapse over. Then they'll throw a deep ball in hopes of catching the secondary offguard. Defensivley, they'll look to stuff the line and shut down any running game. Arden Key is tied for 6th in the country with sacks per game and hopes to have a field day against the U of L o-line. Jamal Adams has been the go-to guy on defense and does it all. He can blitz, run stop, or fall back into coverage. Adams will be all over the place in hopes of messing up the Cards' offense.
Louisville will bank on Jackson to do everything plus more. With the poor offensive line it will be quick passes or options in hopes of preventing negtive yardage. Hikutini hopes to dismantle the LSU linebacker corps while the outside receivers will rely on their speed. Defensively the Cards will most likely stack the line to stop Guice.
Keys to the Game -Stop the run game. LSU will shove it down thedefenses throat all nightand the Cards must be prepared for it.
-Protect Lamar Jackson. The offensive line has played a big role in the decline in the offensive production in the back half of the season. Give Jackson time to throw the bal or make plays.
-Don't rely solely on Lamar Jackson. Last bowl game Jackson came in not well-known and did what he wanted. Jackson has been the 'guy' all year for Louisville and teams have gameplanned on taking him out of the game. Other players must make plays to keep the LSU defense honest.
My Prediction ESPN's Football Power Index gives Louisville a 51.6% chance of winning. That seems about right. This game could go either way, but we all hope the Cards come out on top. I think they do. Lamar Jackson cannot be contained. You can try and you will fail. The Heisman winner will be the 8th straight to win a bowl game after winning the award thanks to his dual threat attack. Without Fournette, Guice will wear down in the second half.