June 16, 2024

LSU seeking to close out season on a four-game winning streak

LSU Tigers Football

LSU Coach Brian Kelly walks along the sideline during a timeout in the fourth quarter against Florida State Sunday September 3, 2023 at Camping World Stadium. (Lynn Harrington/stayaliveinpower5)

The Bayou Bengals are no strangers to finishing strong down the stretch, and they have an opportunity to do just that in the ReliaQuest Bowl today.

For a second-straight year, LSU will be facing a Big Ten team in the postseason, and Coach Brian Kelly is trying to win back-to-back January bowl games. The Bayou Bengals were solid through the regular season, and won six of their last seven games, including three-straight. Not to mention quarterback Jayden Daniels won the Heisman Trophy.

However, Daniels has opted out of LSU’s bowl game, and Kelly will be inserting Garrett Nussmeier behind center against Wisconsin. Nussmeier will be making his first career start. The sophomore gunslinger has only attempted 33 passes this season, but will have All-American wideout Malik Nabers in his arsenal.

First-year Coach Luke Fickell will attempt to make life hard for Nussmeier in the pocket, so he’ll need to keep his head on a swivel. The Badgers have a very tough defense too. It’s hard to argue against that when Wisconsin (7-5) is only allowing 18.9 points per game, and is 28th nationally in total defense.

That means Kelly will have to get Nussmeier in a rhythm early against a unit looking to wreak havoc at the line of scrimmage. LSU has scored 42-plus points in each of its’ last three games, including two in the 50’s. Kelly needs to keep that production going. It just so happens that the Bayou Bengals’ defense has been a liability all season long.

The Badgers have a veteran quarterback in Tanner Mordecai, who knows how to sling it, and will put the pressure on the Bayou Bengals’ secondary. Wisconsin always fields a mammoth offensive line, so LSU’s pass rush will have to be on point.

This game will come down to which team wants it more. The fact that LSU (9-3) only had one opt out in Daniels, means they’re bringing their best game plan. Fickell hasn’t fared well against SEC teams in the past, and that should give Kelly the advantage. A win over the Badgers will put a big notch in the belt for Kelly, the Bayou Bengals and the SEC.

An LSU victory will also generate a bunch of positive buzz for the offseason, and help with recruiting down the road. So there’s no denying this game is important for all parties involved. Wisconsin has been phenomenal in bowl games for nearly a decade though. The Badgers have won eight of their last nine bowl games, including three-straight, so something has to give.