Wisconsin vs. LSU: 5 things to know about the ReliaQuest Bowl matchup
Wisconsin is back in the postseason, continuing one of the longest active bowl streaks in the country in Luke Fickell’s first season!
After going 7-5 in 2023, the Badgers learned they will be heading to the ReliaQuest Bowl in Tampa to face SEC power program LSU. The Tigers finished the season 9-3 overall and No. 13 in the country.
The betting line for that game in Florida opened heavily in favor of LSU with Brian Kelly’s program listed at -10.5. As the teams settle into a month of bowl prep, here are 5 things to know about Wisconsin’s New Year’s Day opponent:
Potential Heisman winner for the Tigers
Opt-outs can always change the picture of a team’s roster for a bowl game. But, as things currently stand, LSU is likely to have the Heisman Trophy winner under center for the bowl game.
That would be star QB Jayden Daniels who delivered an absolutely dynamic season for the Tigers. He finished the year as LSU’s leading rusher while also throwing for 40 touchdowns.
Daniels threw for 3,812 yards while completing an impressive 72% of his passes. He had just 4 interceptions all season long for an eye-popping 10-to-1 TD-to-INT ratio.
As a runner, Daniels led LSU with 1,134 yards and averaged 8.4 yards per carry. That was almost 500 more rushing yards than the next closest contributor for LSU, and Daniels’ 10 touchdowns led the team.
Following Championship Weekend, Daniels is the current favorite to capture the Heisman Trophy in the updated Heisman odds.
Surprisingly lackluster defense for LSU
Wisconsin’s offense struggled to score points this season, but the good news is the Badgers get a struggling defense in the bowl game. LSU’s scoring defense finished 80th in the country while giving up 27.8 points per game, and a number of teams were able to find success against the Tigers.
In 12 games, LSU gave up 30+ 7 times and 40+ points 3 times. Arkansas — a program that eventually fired its OC and averaged 26.6 points per game — scored 31 against the LSU defense.
Those numbers do not guarantee Wisconsin will find success offensively, but it helps the outlook for the game.
Harold Perkins Jr. a defender to account for
While the LSU defense has been gashed as a unit, one player that must be accounted for is Perkins. The star linebacker led LSU with 13 TFL and 5.5 sacks and is a versatile playmaker on defense.
Perkins is not just a pass rusher. He also has 5 pass breakups and an interception this season to go with 3 forced fumbles. Perkins possesses a true nose for the football, and the Badgers must account for him on every down to avoid a turnover.
LSU WRs tough to contain
Jayden Daniels is the QB that makes LSU’s offense go, but he has plenty of playmakers on the outside. The combination of Malik Nabers and Brian Thomas Jr. on the outside is terrifying for defenses with those players each recording 1,000 receiving yards and 14 touchdowns.
Combined, Nabers and Thomas have 2,625 receiving yards and 29 touchdowns while averaging 18 yards per catch. If that combination is not enough to destroy a defense, the Tigers also have Kyren Lacy to throw to.
Lacy is a big-play target who leads that trio with 19.3 yards per catch with 463 yards on the season. He also has 7 touchdowns with LSU’s passing threat able to attack defenses from a variety of angles.
First postseason matchup between the two programs
It is not unsurprising, but LSU and Wisconsin have not faced off regularly. In fact, the two sides have just 4 all-time meetings with the most recent game coming in 2016.
That game was a season opener at Lambeau Field in Green Bay with the Badgers winning 16-14. Corey Clement rushed for 86 yards and a touchdown while Troy Fumagalli delivered 100 receiving yards.
Overall, LSU leads the all-time series 3-1, including a pair of wins in the early 1970s. The two teams have never met in bowl season, and it will be interesting to see what the game looks like come New Year’s Day.