The SEC has good teams and bad teams. Their dominance in bowl games sometimes has to do with the matchups they get. Apparently, a team like LSU isn’t good enough to beat a subpar Notre Dame team, which says something about the hype this conference sometimes tends to get. The Irish won the Music City Bowl 31-28.
The moral of this isn’t that the SEC is weak. It’s strong, especially one specific division, but it has plenty of bad teams as well, that get swept under the rug. Their record so far in the 2014-2015 bowl season has been fantastic, with the Tigers being the first to lose a game. But with LSU picking up five losses this season, tied for their worst during the Les Miles era, maybe beating them in the gauntlet of the SEC West wasn’t all that difficult?
The Fighting Irish had a season that started great but ended in a controversial loss against Florida State. ‘What Ifs’ rule in sports, and if that touchdown wouldn’t have been waved off for pass interference (a bad call in my opinion, but it doesn’t matter) the Seminoles wouldn’t have been in the playoffs and maybe Golson wouldn’t have turned into the most productive interception machine we’ve seen in action this season.
The senior got to share the quarterback role with sophomore Malik Zaire, who had an almost perfect game, prepping for the bigger role he has waiting for him next season. He completed 12-of-15 passes for 96 yards and a touchdown pass, while rushing for 96 yards and a touchdown himself. Golson was a little less accurate and effective, but the two shared the final drive that set up Kyle Brindza’s game winning field goal.
This was a game of huge plays, most of them on LSU’s side. Leonard Fournette returned a kickoff 100 yards to score a touchdown and also took a hand off to run 89 yards, giving LSU the lead in the third quarter, which didn’t last long. There was also the one moment in which Anthony Jennings looked like a competent quarterback, dumping the ball off into the middle to John Diarse, taking it 75 yards for the touchdown.
But the Irish made big plays of their own. They tied the game at 28 during that hectic third quarter as C.J. Prosise ran for 50 yards to score the touchdown. Zaire himself was used as a blocker on a previous touchdown to show he isn’t a finesse player and has a lot more in his arsenal. There was also the huge goalline stand by Notre Dame at the end of the first half, stopping LSU on the 1 before the Tigers tried the fake field goal. Les Miles got creative but his own players ran into each other and the fake off didn’t work.
The bad taste of the regular season is slightly washed away by beating LSU and claiming a bowl game and some prestige over a big school, while showing promise that their quarterback situation will be better with Zaire starting for the team. The loss for LSU was another example of why the voices calling for Les Miles to maybe move on are getting louder and louder, although for now, it seems that it’s just his defensive coordinator that’s going away.