2018 Citrus Bowl Expert Picks & Predictions: Notre Dame vs. LSU
Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. LSU Tigers, Monday Jan. 1, 1 p.m. ET
The Citrus Bowl really should be called the Deja Vu Bowl this year. This is the second year in a row that we have seen LSU in this game. It's also the second time in four years, and the third time in 12 years, that these squads have met in a bowl game. LSU crushed Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl in 2006, and the Irish won by a field goal in the Music City Bowl in 2014, so this is a bit of a rubber match of sorts.
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Citrus Bowl Betting Storylines
There is some off-field drama to deal with here for Notre Dame - which there always seems to be. The receiving corps are particularly impacted this time around. Second-leading receiver Chase Claypool has undergone shoulder surgery and will miss the game. And now third-leading receiver Kevin Stepherson - who led the team in touchdowns with five - has been suspended indefinitely along with minor backup running back C.J. Holmes. Both players are allegedly dealing with shoplifting charges - which is what all the cool college kids seem to be doing these days. Of course, the impact would be more significant if the team was any kind of passing threat. They are ranked 104th nationally in passing yards and a much more relevant seventh in rushing yards. Josh Adams is the driving force of the running game, and he is ready to go here There was some uncertainty surrounding him, and that would have been a much bigger story. Adams faces an NFL decision this year as a junior, and many expect him to go pro. He'll be a reasonably high pick, so there was some speculation that he would follow the lead of the top running backs last year and skip the bowl game to stay healthy. He chose not to, though, and is indeed holding off on publicly declaring his draft plans one way or the other until after this game.
Adams will face a solid rush defense, but it's not a perfect one. LSU's two biggest games show the challenges and opportunities that the Tigers' defense can face. Against Alabama the Tigers were playing great run defense, holding Alabama to just 116 yards on the ground and 3.2 yards per carry. The Tide couldn't get anything going on the ground. But Auburn had a much different experience. Top running back Kerryon Johnson carried 31 times for 156 yards - a solid five yards per carry - and scored. If LSU has a defensive game like they did against Alabama then Notre Dame is in real trouble in this one. If they hold up like they did against Auburn, though, then the Irish could have a good day. The biggest problem Notre Dame has is that they are predictable on offense at the best of times, and with two receivers out they are going to be even more of an unbalanced run team. If they can't find a way to keep LSU off balance then this game could get ugly.
Citrus Bowl Odds and Betting Trends
The game opened with LSU favored by two points, but that climbed almost instantly to the key number of three and has stayed steady at that level since. Action is evenly split between the two teams, so we aren't likely to see dramatic movement without significant news. The total opened at 50 points and has been on a slow climb to 51.5 in early action.
The Irish are 1-4 ATS in their last five bowl games, 0-4 ATS in their last five games in January, and 0-4 ATS in their last five games overall. They have gone "over" the total in five of their last seven bowl games. The Tigers are a perfect 6-0 ATS in their last six games overall and 6-0-1 ATS in their last seven following an ATS win. The "under" is 19-8-2 in their last 29 games overall.
Notre Dame vs. LSU Citrus Bowl Expert Picks & Predictions
There are some games that are really exciting and compelling - the Cotton Bowl between Ohio State and USC certainly fits that bill this year. The Citrus Bowl, on the other hand, is not a game like that. Notre Dame was blown out in two of their final three games and just aren't a team that is particularly intriguing. LSU is the fourth-best team in the SEC this year - and the conference has only three decent teams in it. The matchup between the teams is tired, and the storylines are in short supply. LSU closed stronger and is probably a little more talented. That makes them the pick against the spread, but this isn't a game that I am in any hurry to bet on - or to watch, for that matter.
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