WHO: No. 14 Notre Dame (9-3) vs. No. 17 LSU (9-3)
WHAT: The 72nd Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl
WHEN: Jan. 1st at 1 p.m. ET on ABC
WHERE: Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Florida
THE SKINNY: There are few bowl matchups that excite quite like name brands Notre Dame and LSU clashing on a neutral field. While both of these top 25 teams enjoyed a bit of a bounce-back campaign in 2017, this year’s rematch of a postseason meeting from 2014 might be more about who isn’t playing in the game than who is.
For the Tigers, injuries have been a recurring theme for this team and fresh faces replacing big names is nothing new. Still, the number of impact guys that will be missing in action includes star pass rusher Arden Key and linebackers Corey Thompson and Donnie Alexander. Defensive coordinator Dave Aranda is the nation’s highest-paid coordinator for a reason though so no need to pour one out for him, but he still faces quite the challenge against an offense averaging over 35 points a game and rushing for over six yards a carry on the year.
Luckily for LSU, tailback Derrius Guice should be good to go in this one and he could provide a nice boost to a unit that has struggled with consistency at times. That could be one reason why offensive coordinator Matt Canada is reportedly on his way out the door but there’s still plenty of weapons to worry about from wideout D.J. Chark to underrated tight end John David Moore.
Notre Dame likewise has plenty of firepower on the offensive side but will be missing some key pieces after receiver Kevin Stepherson was suspended and the tight end position in particular is extremely thin. That might not matter much if junior tailback Josh Adams can get going running the football after compiling 1,386 yards at a whopping 7.3 yards per carry over the course of 2017. His stellar play has been key to the team’s resurgence from that 4-8 disaster from a season ago and helped starting quarterback Brandon Wimbush (16 TDs, six INTs) grow into the role.
While LSU enters the game trending a little higher than their opponent from the North based on how the end of the regular season played out, Notre Dame will no doubt be plenty motivated to hit the double-digit win plateau to cap a heck of a reversal from what happened last year. The Irish are still capable of playing like a team that was in the top five in the College Football Playoff rankings and have a healthier roster heading down to Orlando so it shouldn’t be surprising at all to see them take home a win over a solid SEC team to ring in the new year.
THE PICK: Notre Dame 31, LSU 23
Today in ‘You’re getting old,’ part 9,374: Ron Dayne’s kid will soon play college football.
While it seems like just yesterday that the ‘Great Dayne’ was running wild at Wisconsin and winning the 1999 Heisman Trophy, the soon-to-be 40-year-old will be back in college football in a different light: as a dad. That’s because his son, Javian Dayne, just committed to Boston College as part of the class of 2018.
The elder Dayne amassed 7,125 yards on the ground over four seasons at Wisconsin, a mark that is more than any other player in college football history but good for second on the NCAA all-time list behind San Diego State’s Donnel Pumphrey due to the lack of counting bowl stats back in the day. The younger Dayne doesn’t have quite the same size and stats as his dad but wasn’t too shabby at Waunakee (Wis.) High in running for 4,269 yards and 56 touchdowns the past three years.
“I absolutely hated the process,” Javian told the Wisconsin State Journal of his recruitment. “I was one of those people who wanted to get it over with. I didn’t like the process at all. … We did a lot of traveling around.”
The six-foot, 200 pound recruit is listed as a two-star by 247Sports and was recruited heavily by the Eagles since November. He’ll have a tough time becoming the starter with A.J. Dillon coming off a 1,500 yard season as a freshman but could be in the mix with several others to see some carries early on with primary backup Jon Hilliman transferring to Rutgers.
Either way, the first time the cameras find Ron Dayne on the sidelines at a Boston College game watching his son will be yet another reminder that we’re all getting very, very old.
Alex Grinch isn’t the only member of Mike Leach’s staff who is ticketed out of Pullman this offseason.
According to Sports Illustrated’s Bruce Feldman, Oregon had poached Washington State assistant Jim Mastro to be the Ducks’ new running backs coach and run game coordinator.
Mastro has been with the Cougars since joining Leach’s initial staff at Wazzu back in 2012 and has quite a bit of experience out west, including 11 seasons at Nevada and a year at UCLA. He replaces Donte Pimpleton, who followed former Oregon coach Willie Taggart to Florida State several weeks ago.
Interestingly, this is the third straight offseason that the Ducks have poached an assistant from their Pac-12 North rivals. Quarterbacks coach David Yost left for Eugene back in 2015 while Taggart hired defensive line coach Joe Salave’a last year. Mastro should have plenty to work with upon arrival with senior Tony Brooks-James and youngster Darrian Felix likely leading the way on the ground.
Kevin Sumlin is still sorting out his new staff at Arizona but reportedly has his special teams coordinator locked up and it’s a familiar face from his previous stop in College Station.
While Texas A&M’s former special teams coordinator Jeff Banks was hired for the same position at Alabama, Sumlin has hired his No. 2 in Jeremy Springer to be the Wildcats’ new special teams coordinator, a source told Sports Illustrated this week. The trio worked together for three years with the Aggies as Springer assisted Banks in the crucial third phase of the game.
Springer was originally ticketed to join another former Sumlin assistant in David Beaty as a staffer at Kansas but instead will head west to the desert. His most recent formal title was quality control special teams/tight ends assistant at Texas A&M but he’ll be an on-field coach in Tucson.
Springer played linebacker for UTEP and is still pretty fresh-faced in the coaching profession having graduated from the school in 2011.
It’s been nearly two weeks since the national championship game which means that Jeremy Pruitt has been in Knoxville as the new Tennessee head coach for some time now leading the program. Despite that fact, there’s still a visible reminder every day when he drives into work of the previous regime that was in charge of the Vols.
That’s because there’s a giant 35-by-30-foot picture of former head coach Butch Jones still up on the outside of Neyland Stadium… over two months after he was fired by Tennessee. According to the Times Free Press, the picture could even be up past signing day in February as the rather slow change is made for an item that isn’t as easy for the school to alter as the media guide is.
“That’s not an easy process,” athletic director Phillip Fulmer told Knoxville NBC affiliate WBIR. “There’s mechanical things involved to get that done. It’s not just, ‘Let’s take down a picture off the wall or a graphic.’ We’re working through that.
“It is important to us, because it is important to reflect what we’re doing. It’ll be done in due time. I’ve heard the same thing from the chancellor. She wants me to speed it up, too. We will. We’ll get there.”
Funny enough, the giant picture of Jones (flanked by UT legends Reggie White and Robert Neyland) replaced an image of Fulmer from when the team won the BCS title 20 years ago. Something says they might revert back to that look with their now-AD until Pruitt can establish himself with the program over the next few years to prevent a repeat of this fiasco.
As the Times Free Press notes, it took Florida State just a week to scrub Jimbo Fisher‘s likeness from Doak Campbell Stadium but it might be three months before the Vols can do the same with their coaching change. It may not delight the fan base to see Jones some more but this is clearly one area on Rocky Top that is decidedly not moving at SEC-speed at the moment.