General Football vs Florida State

LSU football head coach Brian Kelly observes his team during warmups Sunday, Sept. 4, 2022, prior to LSU's Allstate Kickoff game defeat to Florida State 23-24 in the Caesars Superdome, New Orleans, La.

If you recall the moment the news broke regarding Brian Kelly’s departure from Notre Dame to LSU, you likely remember the contrasting reactions from opposing fan bases.  

While the Tiger faithful were optimistic about the future, albeit a bit skeptical, the reaction of Irish fandom was less positive. They felt that the timing was inconsiderate, with the team still being in the playoff race at the time of his departure. The move was considered a cop out, betrayal and an admission of defeat. 

As fan bases’ opposing views carried over to social media, a distant rivalry brewed, soaking in flavors of animosity and bitterness for months on end as fans awaited the 2022 football season.  

When Marcus Freeman was announced as the next Fighting Irish head coach, Notre Dame fans celebrated, convincing themselves he was more involved in their recent success than Kelly was. When Notre Dame blew a 28-7 lead to Oklahoma State in Freeman’s debut, Tiger fans poked fun of them for losing yet another big game, this time without Kelly as a scapegoat.  

Irish fans didn’t pay LSU’s blowout loss in the Texas bowl much mind but jumped at the opportunity to point out Notre Dame’s No. 1 2023 recruiting class during the summer, with a large number of those recruits coming in thanks to Freeman and his new coaching staff.

They also took note of their counterpart’s ranking, which was on the edge of the top-10 at the time. When LSU’s 2023 class rose with multiple strong acquisitions and Notre Dame’s dropped from the No. 1 spot, Tiger fans claimed the Irish fan base had jumped the gun. 

Then, the season began, and the beef multiplied. With each fandom seeing what their new coaching staff was producing on the field, there was less speculation and more results to go off of in their arguments.  

LSU suffered a heartbreaking loss in its opening game against Florida State, and Notre Dame fans roasted its fans into oblivion. A week later, the Fighting Irish got upset by Marshall, and Tiger fans had a field day. Each fan base loved seeing the other distraught, relishing in their opposers’ failures and making excuses for their own. 

All this arguing has occurred without the teams even being expected to play any time soon, with no matchups scheduled for the next decade at the time of writing this. And with Notre Dame starting the season at No. 5 and LSU starting unranked, few expected them to meet in the postseason. 

Well... that has changed.  

Now, the probability of these teams being featured in the same bowl game is still relatively small, especially with it being this early in the season. But based on what has happened in each team’s first two games and what remains on their schedules, there’s reason to believe they could end up with similar records.  

The Tigers should win their remaining non-conference matchups against New Mexico and UAB, but how many conference games they win is unpredictable. The average preseason prediction for Kelly’s first LSU squad was around 7-5 and 8-4, and although it suffered an unexpected loss to Florida State, I don’t expect that to change.

The team got things together in the second half of that game and looked even better in the next one, and I expect that to hold up once conference play begins.  

On the other hand, most analysts had Notre Dame finishing the regular season between 9-3 and 11-1, but its loss to Marshall suggests the Irish may struggle to meet those expectations. They didn’t just lose that game, they looked defective while doing it, turning the ball over multiple times with the game on the line while not forcing a single one from the Thundering Herd.  

They now have to deal with their starting quarterback Tyler Buchner being out for the season as well, which will certainly take some time to adjust to. Couple that with the facts that the Fighting Irish are already 0-2, were flawed on offense before that injury and have three teams ranked No. 12 or higher left on their schedule, and it’s within the realm of possibilities that they won’t even make a bowl game. 

But I don’t expect that to happen either.  

Like LSU, this team has tremendous talent accumulated from a solid streak of strong recruiting classes, but it’s experiencing growing pains. With Kelly having nearly two decades more experience as a head coach than Freeman, they are probably worse at Notre Dame. 

I suspect Notre Dame will improve throughout the season and relatively quickly, and besides No. 5 Clemson, No. 7 USC and No. 12 BYU, the only other teams I see causing them problems are North Carolina and Stanford. Those matchups are soon, coming in just two weeks and a month respectively, so we’ll know what to expect from them by then. 

At the time of writing this, I see them losing three of those five and winning what’s left, finishing the season with a 7-5 record. My original prediction for LSU was 8-4 but being that I expected them to pull out a win over the Seminoles, that projection has changed to 7-5. 

The NCAA knows a financial opportunity when it sees one, and I guarantee the NCAA has noticed the animosity between these fanbases and will jump at the chance at featuring each team in the same bowl game. A matchup between the Irish and Tigers at this point would surely shatter the involved bowl's viewers record. 

Their last three matchups came in bowl games, where Notre Dame holds a 2-1 lead with their 2014 win in the Music City Bowl and 2017 win in the Citrus Bowl (arguably Brian Kelly’s biggest bowl win). LSU’s 41-14 rout of Notre Dame in the 2006 Sugar Bowl does hold a bit more weight, though.

Would that still be the case now that Kelly has joined the opposing side? Well, we may just find that out in December.

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