Well folks, it’s been a long, not particularly fun month for fans of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. The men’s basketball team had their powers stolen by aliens from Moron Mountain, the football team is hemorrhaging available receivers in a game against an elite LSU secondary, etc., etc.
So, as the Irish limp into 2018 in search of ANYTHING positive to hang our collective hats on (besides a good football recruiting class signing in late December, which was solid but also expected), I think it’s time we revisited ND’s Citrus Bowl opponent, the LSU Tigers, in hopes of learning more about them and finding some optimism that the Irish can win Monday’s game.
I reconnected with Billy Gomila over at And The Valley Shook for the second time (Part 1 is here), looking for a little more information on how the Tigers match up, and a little more detail on how talented Coach O and his players are in terms of singing, dancing, and Legends of the Hidden Temple-esque trivia and physical challenges.
Let’s see what Billy had to say.
1. Is Coach O the answer for LSU getting back to the top of the college football world?
Still to be determined, to be honest.
That's not a particularly hot take, but it's an honest one. His first year was a relative success, I think. But it will all depend on how he builds on it with 2018 and the 2019 recruiting cycle. And now he has to figure out this offensive coordinator business (what is it with playing y'all and our coordinators leaving?).
2. What are Danny Etling's strengths and weaknesses? If ND can slow down Guice and Williams, is he good enough to carry the Tigers offense?
Etling is a solid decision maker and short passer, who just can't push the ball down the field consistently.
He's a tough kid and gives you everything he has, but it isn't much. If this game comes down to him having to win it, advantage Irish.
3. How strong is the LSU offensive line, are there any weak spots, and how do you see them matching up with ND's defensive front?
It's a young group that will be starting at least two true freshmen, but they've come along this year and closed out the season on a hot note.
The big issue has been assignments in pass protection, so if LSU gets in third-and-long situations, the Irish may be able to send some pressure packages successfully.
4. Who's the X-factor for the LSU offense -- the one guy whose performance is critical for the Tigers' ability to win this one?
Williams does a lot for this team as a runner and receiver, and occasional wildcat QB -- but watch for receiver Russell Gage on jet sweeps.
He doesn't look like much but he's broken his share of big plays this year, and he will absolutely hurdle somebody in the open field. Every team says "he won't pull that on our guys" but there he his skying over a Bama defender...
5. Notre Dame will be missing multiple starting WRs (Chase Claypool out due to injury/surgery, Kevin Stepherson out due to suspension/arrests) -- think there's any chance the ND offense can throw the ball on what already appeared to be a superior LSU secondary compared to the ND receivers/passing game?
If they can establish the run, play-action will always help, but this is a very stout group of corners. It's definitely LSU's biggest advantage here.
6. LSU is missing a few guys up front - how will they try to slow down Josh Adams and the ND running game, and will they be able to do so?
Well, Arden Key is the big one, but the other two linebackers are going to be replaced by younger, bigger linebackers with better talent. They've had their freshmen mistakes this year, but nobody's really a freshman anymore.
7. Are there any players on LSU's special teams who could make game-changing plays on Monday?
D.J. Chark is a pretty solid punt returner, but to be honest there haven't been any individual standouts on special teams for the Tigers.
Kicking is also extremely dicey.
8. Dance-off between Coach O and Coach Kelly - what one song does each coach dance to, and who wins?
O's definitely going to a bayou two-step, and the smart money's on him.
Irish dude from Boston? Nobody wants to watch you bang to the Dropkicks, Brian.
9. Same question as above, but now a karaoke contest.
O's a big Creedence guy, so Born on the Bayou seems like a good bet, although understanding him might be tough.
10. What two LSU players would you choose to represent the Tigers on the old Nickelodeon game show Legends of the Hidden Temple, and why?
Danny Etling has a face for TV so he'd be a hit with the producers.
Derrius Guice has the moves, but he's another guy that producers would love with his glib remarks.
11. Do you think we're about to see a Danny Etling showcase that ends with him throwing footballs 70 yards in the air from his knees and going 1st overall in the draft?
Maybe. Signing that big check seems a lot longer than waiting in the green room all draft only to wind up in Cleveland, like some other poor quarterbacks.
12. How does Mike the Tiger stack up against other live mascots in the country? Give me your top 5 live mascots in the nation.
Is this even a question? He's the best and he eats the rest.
As for the others, I'm a dog person so give me Bully from Mississippi State -- he's the people's Bulldog.
Reveille is a very good, very patient dog for dealing with those weirdos in College Station.
Smokey has seen some...things...y'all, over the last few years.
And Tusk for Arkansas at least brings some scariness factor. Wild Hogs are nothing to mess with.
For the five spot, I'm partial to horses for having to do most of the work while Tommy the Trojan and Chief Osceola get all the credit.
13. ND has Equanimeous St. Brown and Greer Martini. What are the best/funniest/most ridiculous names on the LSU roster?
We've come a long way from our Barkevious Mingos, haven't we?
Saahdiq Charles is a pretty solid one, and of course Andraez "Greedy" Williams -- appropriate too, given that he led the SEC in interceptions.
You'll also hear K'Lavon Chaisson's name a bunch, playing in place of Arden Key.
14. Are there any great Coach O stories at LSU so far like the ones he had at Ole Miss with the "Wild Boys"? Please detail those here, or alternatively, just list your favorite facts about Coach O and favorite moments/quotes of his in his coaching career.
The best Orgeron stories all involve recruiting, whether it's hitch-hiking down Alligator Alley in the Everglades because his rental car broke down in the middle of the night, or making himself at home in a recruit's fridge because his momma had some leftover red beans and rice.
One of the fun things about O is that almost ever recruit has a story, even if they never played for the guy in college.
I want to give a final shout out to Billy for trading questions and answers with me to prepare for the big game, and highly recommend you all follow him on Twitter and be sure to check out the And the Valley Shook Twitter and website for all your Citrus Bowl updates (from the enemy’s perspective).