PREVIEW: The Matchups and Prediction

Here we take a look at the how each team's offense, defense and special teams stack up. Also, we give you our pick of how the Sugar Bowl will play out.

LSU rushing offense vs. Notre Dame rushing defense:

The LSU rushing attack has somewhat come into its own over the second half of the season. It didn't take fans long into the ULL game in the season opener to see LSU wasn't going to be a strong running team. But as the season progressed, the Tigers improved on the ground using a plethora of running backs. While some critics still stick with the claim that the Tigers can't run the football, LSU ranks second in the SEC averaging 137 yards per game. The Tigers will likely stick with a Keiland Williams-Jacob Hester-Alley Broussard rotation mixing in the occasional Justin Vincent and Trindon Holliday. Notre Dame is what one would call a hard-nosed run stopping team and the Tigers can take advantage of an Irish defense that allows 127 yards per game.

Advantage: LSU



LSU passing offense vs. Notre Dame passing defense:

Let's just say when JaMarcus Russell and his wide receivers began watch film of the Notre Dame pass defense, their mouths began to water. As good as the Fighting Irish can throw the football, they are as bad defending against it. Michigan exposed the Notre Dame defense as Chad Henne and Mario Manningham had a field day in a 47-21 rout on the Irish in South Bend. Expect a similar display when Russell hooks up with Dwayne Bowe, Early Doucet and Craig Davis on that fast track in the Superdome. Russell will be on a grand stage to put up some ridiculously gaudy stats to impress the NFL stats in what will likely be his final game in LSU's purple and gold.

Advantage: LSU



Notre Dame rushing offense vs. LSU rushing defense:

Prior to the final three weeks of the season, this matchup would have been a heavily slanted in LSU's favor. But Alabama's Kenneth Darby, Ole Miss running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Arkansas sickening duo of Darren McFadden and Felix Jones ripped through the LSU run defense. The Tigers' run stoppers allowed 298 rushing yards to the Razorbacks; however, the combination of McFadden and Jones is arguably the best backfield in America. Darius Walker is a good back that could give LSU fits. The Tigers probably still will contain the Notre Dame backfield, but in fairness we'll call it even.

Advantage: Even



Notre Dame passing offense vs. LSU passing defense:

As Troy Smith and the Ohio State Buckeyes will find out in the BCS National Championship Game against Florida, Notre Dame will as well against LSU. Neither the Buckeyes nor the Irish have seen passing defenses as fast nor talented as those of the top two teams in the SEC. LSU ranks third in the nation (143 yards per game) against the pass and is third as well in passing efficiency defense. Brady Quinn is as good a quarterback as you will find anywhere and his numbers – 35 TDs, 5 Ints, 3,278 yards – are impressive enough to prove it. But can Notre Dame protect him? The Irish ranks 92nd in the country in sacks allowed (2.5 per game). LSU has made a habit of wreaking havoc on opposing quarterbacks and it will be interesting to see if Quinn can survive his last game under the Gold Dome.

Advantage: Even



LSU special teams vs. Notre Dame special teams:

LSU has had its fair share of problems on special teams this season. Ironically, though, it is the LSU special teams that produced what will probably be the play of the 2006 season. Trindon Holliday's 92-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against Arkansas propelled the Tigers to their 10th win of the season. Colt David remains solid as the Tigers place-kicker and Chris Jackson's punting average has gone up in recent games. Notre dame kicker Carl Gioia is eight of 12 on field goals and has missed five extra points this season. The Irish also ranks 88th in punt returns.

Advantage: LSU




Did you know Notre Dame has lost eight straight bowl games? It's true; The Fighting Irish hasn't won a bowl game since defeating Texas A&M 24-21 in the 1994 Cotton Bowl. Lou Holtz was their coach for crying out loud. You have to think that streak will end eventually. On the flip side, this will be the first Sugar Bowl played in the Louisiana Superdome since Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Crescent City and LSU will take the field in a de facto home game just 70 miles from Baton Rouge. Did you see the Saints' first game back in the Dome against the Falcons? It'll be sort of like that.

Advantage: LSU





The difference in these two teams is measured by a wide margin. With identical records, both LSU and Notre Dame have both suffered two losses. The difference is Notre Dame was beaten both times by 20-plus points losing to Michigan and USC. LSU lost at Auburn and Florida and are just a couple of plays away from being in Glendale, Arizona playing Ohio State instead of those same Florida Gators. Notre Dame has a great coach and a flashy offense, but the Irish needs to understand when they venture south of the Mason-Dixon Line, it's all about defense. ESPN columnist Pat Forde said it best when he referred to the Irish as "Notre Ame (notice there is no ‘D')." Brady Quinn and his offensive counterparts will score some points, but if LSU's offensive machine is clicking, it shouldn't be close.


LSU 38, Notre Dame 17

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