On Monday, the 9-4 LSU Tigers will face off against the 8-5 Purdue Boilermakers in the Citrus Bowl.
By Steve Wright
Here is a look at the three keys that will see the Tigers finish with double-digit wins in their first season under Brian Kelly:
1 – How Good Is Purdue’s Depth?
The combination of opt-outs for the NFL Draft and transfer reasons have killed Purdue. It is hard enough for a team to navigate bowl season, regardless. Still, when head coach Brian Brohm decided to leave Big Ten country and head for Louisville, the Boilermakers’ chances in this bowl went downhill rapidly. Quarterback Aidan O’Connell is missing, as are his two leading pass catchers in receiver Charlie Jones and tight end Payne Durham. All three are preparing for the NFL Draft. Add in veteran left guard Spencer Holstege – a player who allowed zero sacks on the season and is transferring to UCLA – and this will be a completely different-looking offense. It is hard to say if it will be any good.
Stop Devin Mockobee
Mockobee was an honorable mention All-Big Ten, and he went for over 1,150 yards from scrimmage on the year. He also scored nine total touchdowns and had a quartet of games where he rushed for over 100 yards. Mockbee is the most productive offensive player that will be lining up for the Boilermakers here as a productive pass catcher and a talented runner. As a result, it stands to reason that his role in the offense will be amplified. If the Tigers’ defense can shut down the back, Purdie will be forced to win in other ways.
Get In Close
Purdue feels overmatched here. One big reason is that their red zone defense just isn’t excellent. That is a problem when you have been playing Big Ten talent, let alone facing players with the size and speed of LSU. Purdue is a miserable 89th in the nation in red zone touchdown percentage allowed and 65th in yards per play allowed overall. This team won’t be able to stop the LSU running game when the Tigers get close to the goal line.