Purdue vs. LSU: 5 things to know about the Boilermakers' Citrus Bowl opponent
Purdue didn’t play Notre Dame this season.
But it will face the former Fighting Irish coach, as the Boilermakers will take on Brian Kelly and his LSU Tigers in the Cheez-It Citrus Bowl in Orlando on Jan. 2. The matchup features the losers from 2 title games on Saturday: Purdue fell to No. 2 Michigan in the Big Ten Championship Game in Indianapolis, while LSU was defeated by top-ranked Georgia in the SEC.
The Boilermakers and the Tigers have never before played on the football field. But it will be the Boilermakers’ 3rd straight bowl game against an SEC opponent, having lost to Auburn in the 2018 Music City Bowl, beaten Tennessee last season in the same bowl in Nashville and now facing LSU in Florida. It’s also the Boilermakers’ 1st bowl game in the Sunshine State since they played in the Champs Sports Bowl — in the same facility, now known as Camping World Stadium — in 2006, when Purdue lost to then-ACC opponent Maryland.
Let’s take a look at 5 things we should know about the Tigers:
The quarterback situation
If veteran Jayden Daniels is healthy, he’ll be the quarterback for the Tigers in the bowl game.
But he is nicked up, as he’s been at times during the 2022 season. And because of how much he does for LSU’s offense, it’s easy to see why the junior dual-threat QB has a tendency to be nursing injuries. Daniels, a former transfer from Arizona State, has 2,774 yards passing this season, with 16 touchdowns and only 3 interceptions, along with team-highs of 818 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns. But Daniels was injured in the 1st half of the 50-30 loss to the Bulldogs on Saturday, sending him to the sideline. He’d also suffered lower-leg injuries in games earlier this season vs. Auburn and Texas A&M.
The backup is no slouch. Redshirt freshman Garrett Nussmeier has seen action in 6 games this season, throwing 627 yards with 3 touchdowns and 3 picks. He was fantastic in the 2nd half vs. Georgia, going for 294 yards and 2 touchdowns. A former 4-star pro-style prospect, he’s not as dynamic as Daniels, more pocket passer than runner.
It’s likely Daniels will be ready to go for a game that doesn’t kick for another month, but certainly an injury situation to watch.
As high as No. 5
Only a few weeks ago, LSU was eyeing a potential back-door entry into the College Football Playoff.
The Tigers sat 9-2, with signature victories against Alabama and Ole Miss, thinking they could continue to climb up the rankings and possibly sneak into the field of 4 if they could end the season on a winning streak. But after being 5th in the Week 12 CFP rankings, the Tigers stunningly dropped their regular-season finale at 5-win Texas A&M, 38-23. And then following the loss to Georgia Saturday, LSU saw its rankings drop to 17.
Not only did LSU miss a slim chance at the Playoff, it was dropped from the New Year’s 6 bowl games as well, seeing its stock fall to the Citrus.
Solid passing D
The Tigers’ passing defense has been terrific this season, potentially setting up a big matchup vs. Purdue QB Aidan O’Connell.
LSU is giving up only 209.1 passing yards per game (40th-best in the country out of 131), while allowing only 16 TDs (tied for 37th). But the Tigers have only 6 interceptions and have a minus-1 turnover margin on the season.
Meanwhile, Purdue’s passing offense, led by O’Connell, is the 17th-best in the country, averaging 287.2 yards per game. O’Connell, a 6th-year senior, has 3,490 passing yards this season, with 22 touchdowns, but he also has thrown 13 interceptions. His top target, Charlie Jones, has 110 receptions this year for a school-record 1,361 yards and 12 touchdowns.
The Tigers have true freshman tackles on the left and right sides of their offensive line in Will Campbell and Emery Jones, respectively.
With so much youth at the edges of its line, it stands to reason why LSU has given up sacks in bunches. On the season, Tigers quarterbacks have been sacked 45 times, a total that ranks tied for 127th in the country. LSU is better than only 3 other teams (Boston College, Akron and Colorado State).
Purdue ranks 48th in the country in total sacks, having 28 this season, led by the 5.5 from end Jack Sullivan.
Familiar, not familiar
Purdue’s never played LSU, but it is familiar with Kelly.
Kelly’s Notre Dame team beat the Boilermakers last season in South Bend, taking care of the visitors 27-13 in Jack Plummer’s 2nd-to-last start for Purdue before O’Connell took over as QB1 mid-way through the next game. Unfortunately for the Boilermakers, the outcome continued a trend vs. Kelly and the Irish. The Boilermakers had also lost all 5 of their previous matchups vs. Kelly from 2010-14, before the Notre Dame-Purdue series took a hiatus.
Purdue has played Central Michigan and Cincinnati 9 times during its history, but never while Kelly was the head coach at either program.