Lamar Jackson, No. 13 Louisville brace for No. 20 LSU

By The Sports Xchange  |  Dec. 29, 2016 at 11:49 AM
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The Citrus Bowl has one of the best matchups outside of the major bowls. It has the best player, too.

Heisman Trophy-winning sophomore quarterback Lamar Jackson tries to add to his 51 total touchdowns when No. 13 Louisville takes on No. 20 LSU on Saturday in Orlando, Fla., (11 a.m. ET, ABC) in what will be Tigers coach Ed Orgeron's first game since the school lifted the "interim" from his title in late November.

The game kicks off at 11 a.m. ET on Saturday in Orlando, Fla.

Orgeron went 5-2 as the replacement for fired Les Miles. Louisville was in contention for the College Football Playoff in mid-November before it lost its final two games -- at Houston and to state rival Kentucky -- to finish 9-3.

"Those last two games, I'm still mad about those," Jackson said.

Jackson ran for 1,538 yards and 21 touchdowns and he passed for 3,390 yards and 30 touchdowns. He wasn't at his best in the final two games -- Houston sacked him 11 times, and he committed four turnovers against Kentucky -- but still posted an easy Heisman victory.

"The last guy I've seen like that was called Michael Vick," Orgeron said.

It will be quite a challenge for LSU (7-4), but defensive coordinator Dave Aranda has the personnel to make life difficult for the dual-threat quarterback. LSU is sixth nationally in scoring defense (16.4 points per game) and 14th in total defense (323.0 yards per game).

Only Texas A&M broke the 21-point barrier against the Tigers this season.

"We know he is going to get out there and compete, and we know we're going to get out there and compete," LSU cornerback Donte Jackson said of Lamar Jackson.

"So that really brings more hype to the game. We understand that he is a dynamic player, we understand that he's the Heisman Trophy winner ... but we're going to treat it like a regular game. He's a great player, but we're a great defense, and we're going to be ready to play."

LSU safety Jamal Adams is a potential first-round pick, and cornerback Tre'Davious White earned All-America honors. LSU will be without its leading tackler, linebacker Kendell Beckwith, who suffered a knee injury that kept him out of the regular-season finale.

The Tigers also won't have star running back Leonard Fournette. The junior, who was battling an ankle injury, signed with an agent and is preparing for the NFL draft. His absence is mitigated by sophomore running back Derrius Guice, who was superb as an injury replacement and complement to Fournette this season.

Guice set the school's single-game rushing record on Thanksgiving with 285 yards on 37 carries against Texas A&M. He also rushed for 252 yards in Week 9 vs. Arkansas. Guice has 1,249 rushing yards, averaging 8.0 per carry.

"Guice is rolling and moving," center Ethan Pocic said. "I'm confident in all our backs. We'll be all right."

LSU needs its physical run game to ease the defensive pressure on quarterback Danny Etling and a limited passing game.

Etling threw for 1,906 yards on 60-percent passing with nine touchdowns and four interceptions this season. But the Tigers are only 101st nationally in passing at 187.6 yards per game.

Louisville's defense might have been overshadowed by the team's explosive offense, but it was excellent for most of the season, allowing an average of 316.3 yards per game. The Cardinals, however, will be without starting outside linebacker James Hearns (who has a team-leading eight sacks) and his backup, Henry Famuerewa. They were reportedly injured in a shooting near campus in December.

The biggest question in the Citrus Bowl goes back to Jackson against LSU's defense. The Cardinals have seven receivers with double-digit receptions, and they all average more than 12.2 yards per catch.

Wide receiver James Quick has 42 catches for 688 yards and six scores; tight end Cole Hikutini has 49 receptions for 656 yards and eight touchdowns; receiver Jaylen Smith has 599 yards and six scores on 27 catches.

Louisville loves to use vertical routes to hit big plays. If the receivers are covered, then that just means Jackson has room to take off on his own.

"LSU is very aggressive. They play lot of man coverage," Smith said. "They're fast, they're strong, they're physical. They are a typical SEC secondary. It will be fun to go against them."

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