ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — Even with more than a month to prepare and a season's worth of tape to analyze, the game plan for 14th-ranked Notre Dame and No. 16 LSU is straightforward heading into Monday's Citrus Bowl: have success on the ground and stop the run.
Both teams are ranked in the top 30 nationally in rushing offense and are powered by junior running backs. That is where the similarities end, though.
Notre Dame, which is seventh in the nation at 279.1 rushing yards per game, has a dual-threat quarterback in Brandon Wimbush and a big-play running back in Josh Adams.
"There's a lot of different offenses we have to defend — their quarterback runs, their power game, big offensive line coming right at you," LSU coach Ed Orgeron said.
Wimbush has excelled in his first season as a starter. The junior set school records for rushing yards (765) and rushing touchdowns (14) by a quarterback. Adams is averaging 7.3 yards per carry and has eight carries of 60 yards or more, which is tied for the most in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
The Fighting Irish also have one of the best offensive lines in the nation with a pair of AP All-American selections — tackle Mike McGlinchey and guard Quenton Nelson — manning the left side. Orgeron, who had been an offensive line coach at previous stops, said this might be the best combo he has had to face.
Making matters more difficult for LSU is that it will go into the game hampered by injuries on its defense. Linebackers Arden Key (knee), Corey Thompson and Donnie Alexander (shoulder) will not play and will be replaced by a combination of freshmen.
Notre Dame may be forced to pass more with three of Wimbush's top targets missing the game. Wide receiver Kevin Stephenson, who had five touchdowns, and tight end Alize Mack are suspended and Chase Claypool has a shoulder injury.
LSU's rushing attack is led by a pair of physical backs in Derrius Guice and Darrel Williams; both combined for seven 100-yard games. Guice, who has posted 1,000-yard seasons the last two years, was the MVP of last year's Citrus Bowl game, with 138 yards and a touchdown in the win over Louisville.