WHO: Notre Dame (7-5) vs. No. 23 LSU (8-4)
WHAT: The 16th Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl
WHERE: LP Field, Nashville, Tenn.
WHEN: 3:00 p.m. ET Dec. 30 on ESPN
THE SKINNY: Both the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the No. 23 LSU Tigers limp their way into the 2014 edition of the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl. The Fighting Irish lost its last four contests and five of its last six. LSU, meanwhile, lost two of its last three games.
The obvious starting point for both teams is which quarterbacks will take the field.
Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly revealed Friday that redshirt freshman Malik Zaire will get his first career start for the Fighting Irish, while senior Everett Golson will rotate into the lineup throughout the flow of the game.
”I want to put Malik in a position and really challenge him and put him in this kind of environment,” Kelly told the Associated Press.
In limited action, Zaire didn’t fare as well as Notre Dame hoped. The young signal-caller was 9-of-20 passing for 170 yards in six previous appearances. He’ll now face one of the nation’s most tenacious defenses.
LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis — in what may be his final game with the program — is a master of dialing up pressure on opposing quarterbacks. LSU’s athletic front will certainly be breathing down Zaire’s neck the entire afternoon.
LSU head coach Les Miles, on the other hand, will again trot sophomore Anthony Jennings out as his starting quarterback. Despite completing less than 50 percent (48.8) of his passes and freshman Brandon Harris playing in eight games this season, Jennings received the majority of first-team repetitions during bowl practices.
“I don’t think I’m in a competition at all,” Jennings told NOLA.com. “I get all the one reps. I come in every day and continue to get better. I run with ones, and those guys know that. That’s not really what everybody thinks it is.”
With Jennings behind center, LSU will attempt to set the tone by running the football, which the Tigers have done successfully throughout the season.
“You won’t see much new in this game at all,” Miles told ESPN.com. “What we’re doing is we’ve got young players and we’re trying to grow them up and have them do the things they’ve done in the past here and see if they can do them better, execute well on game day.”
The three-headed backfield of Leonard Fournette, Terrence Magee and Kenny Hillard combined for 1,867 rushing yards. Against Notre Dame’s 61st-ranked run defense, there shouldn’t be a reason for Jennings to throw the ball all that often.
LSU will likely prove to be a little too big and a little too physical in the trenches for Notre Dame to overcome.
THE PREDICTION: LSU 17, Notre Dame 14