In preparation for Tuesday’s Fiesta Bowl, we wanted to gain some insight into the LSU Tigers and their strengths and weaknesses. So, we hopped on over to our friends, or enemies, however you put it, at And The Valley Shook, the home for all things LSU Tigers on SB Nation to chat with managing editor Billy Gomila.
Thank you to Billy for answering our questions. Make sure you follow him at @ATVS_ChefBilly.
Jeremy Brener: What is LSU’s motivation for this game?
Billy Gomila: I think LSU will have plenty of motivation. This team has talked a lot about wanting to cross that 10-win plateau, which the program hasn’t done in a few years. Plus, they’re very aware that this is a national stage, against a team that’s won 25 games in a row. It’s not hard to get excited about trying to break a streak like that.
Jeremy Brener: How will the defense play without Greedy Williams, who has declared for the draft?
Billy Gomila: If he were the only loss, that might not be too much to bear. But his running mate, sophomore Kristian Fulton, will also miss the game with an ankle injury he suffered in November. On top of that, No. 3 corner Kary Vincent lost his father this week, so that puts his status in question, and reserve nickel back Kelvin Joseph also appears to be missing the game as well with a suspension. All-in-all, LSU is going to be missing a big chunk of its defense, which is a huge disadvantage.
Jeremy Brener: We know LB Devin White will give the Knights problems, but which offensive players will give UCF fits?
Billy Gomila: Running back Nick Brossette is a senior that didn’t come into the year with much herald, but has quietly put together a very nice year. He’s within spitting distance of 1,000 yards, and I expect him to get a lot of carries on Tuesday. He’s a zone-running specialist who sees cuts very well. He’s not flashy, but very consistent. It also wouldn’t surprise me to see the Tigers feature freshmen receivers Ja’Marr Chase and Terrace Marshall as well, to try and get some more big plays out of the passing game.
Jeremy Brener: What is the biggest key for LSU to lead them to victory?
Billy Gomila: LSU’s advantage in this one is definitely at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball, and they’re going to have to dominate there, in my opinion. Consistent, strong push in the running game, and give the defensive secondary as much help as possible. If they can stop the run and get to Darriel Mack without having to commit too much safety help, that can help with the defense short-handed at cornerback.
Jeremy Brener: What will the game prediction be?
Billy Gomila: Right now with so much of the defense on ice, it’s hard for me to see LSU winning this one. If the Tigers can win the line of scrimmage on both sides, and force some turnovers and short fields to help get out in front early, I can see them grinding this one out. But it’s going to take one heck of an effort from Devin White, Grant Delpit and LSU’s other stars that have made the trip.