Sugar Bowl • LSU v. Notre Dame
Eh, half an hour to saccharine goodness in New Orleans - a city still rebuilding but that nonetheless, SMQ saw Sunday night, features at least one downtown hotel with a giant Notre Dame logo projected prominently onto its facade - and though he hates to outsource a preview, time-strapped SMQ must bring in Saurian Sagacity to set up the stakes for the Fighting Irish:
Never has beaten a single ranked team
0-4 versus ranked teams
0-1 in bowl games
Combined record of teams he has beaten: 101-128 (44%)
Combined score in losses: 203-137
Signature wins appear to be over Navy both years, and Penn State this year.
He did come very close to beating USC last year. The Irish did, as noted, convincingly carve up zone-loving Penn State early in the year.
What?! Man just tryin-a win a football game, ovah heah...
LSU, though, is prohibited by legislative statute [R.S. 14:91.14] from running any sort of straight zone unless having already pummeled quarterbacks to quarterback dust en route to a three-touchdown lead; pairing the nation's fifth-most sack-happy team (the Tigers average 3.25 per game) against an offense with no keep-em-honest power running game to speak of, that allows 2.5 sacks a game and dozens more hits on its prize passer its own self, is a recipe for a grisly evening. SMQ regards Brady Quinn as a gamer, a tough, resourceful guy who makes the most of his abilities and has a bright future, yet also as an individual awaiting a beating in the Superdome this evening.
For all the hits Quinn takes, though, he finds ways to consistently get the ball to his playmakers - Jeff Samardajgijvasjzxa has caught at least six balls in nine games, the same number he and Rhema McKnight have combined for double-digit catches - and though only Alabama (291 yards, 2 TDs passing) has really thrown on LSU with much success over a whole game, Tennessee struck deep a couple of times to Robert Meachem, the only receiver the Tigers have faced with the production of Notre Dame's combo and Marcus Monk's only catch in Baton Rouge (from Darren McFadden) went for a 21-yard score early in that game. All of which suggests the Irish should take a few shots deep against man coverage - especially with safety Jessie Daniels out of the lineup - if the line can manage to give Quinn time, which has not typically been the Notre Dame approach under West Coast, controlled passing guru Weis.
Given its ability to move the ball pretty regularly against even good defenses, more worrisome from a Notre Dame perspective is whether its own secondary can do anything about Dwayne Bowe, Craig Davis and Early Doucet, each with more than 50 catches and each capable of Manninghamming the regularly abused Irish DBs at any point; or is it "Jarretting" them? Plain blown coverages by outmanned corners are mostly - though not exclusively - responsible for deficits of 27 at Michigan, 17 at Michigan State and 18 at USC, holes that screwed the ball control offense out of its gameplan by the start of the second quarter. JaMarcus Russell's improved consistency, whether or not the Tigers' stable of backs is able to make much happen - though look for Keilland Williams (210 total yards, three touchdowns against Tennessee, Alabama and Arkansas) to make a move on the top spot in the Spring depth chart.
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LSU 32, Notre Dame 24