While it isn't a New Year's Six bowl, this season's Citrus Bowl offers one of the best matchups of the bowl season as No. 13 Louisville (9-3) takes on No. 20 LSU (7-4). When you see that matchup, it's obvious that the 71st edition of the game has come a long way since the first edition -- a 31-6 win for Catawba over Maryville.

Don't worry, I don't know who they are either.

While this will be LSU's fourth appearance in the Citrus Bowl -- its last was a 19-17 loss to Penn State in 2010 -- it's the first time Louisville has appeared in the game.

This will also be the first time LSU and Louisville have ever met on the football field.

Viewing information

Date: Saturday Dec. 31
Time: 11 a.m. ET
Location: Orlando, Florida

Live streams: WatchESPN / WatchESPN apps


Louisville: The Cardinals had College Football Playoff hopes for much of the season after getting off to a 9-1 start, but they lost their last two games of the season against Houston and in-state rival Kentucky. Despite Louisville's strong performance all season, it has had some doubters because even though it beat Florida State by 43 points, many have questioned its schedule. A close loss to Clemson on the road, and those late losses to Houston and Kentucky did nothing to quiet the doubters. A win over LSU to close the season, however, would be a nice "told you so" moment for the Cardinals.

LSU: It's been a long, strange season for the Tigers. A 2-2 start to the year with losses to Wisconsin and Auburn cost Les Miles his job, a game against Florida was postponed due to a hurricane, and then moved to Baton Rouge (where LSU subsequently lost), and Heisman hopeful Leonard Fournette dealt with nagging ankle injuries all season long. Things definitely seemed to be headed back in the right direction once Ed Orgeron took over, as the Tigers finished the season with five wins in seven games, and the two losses were a 10-0 loss to Alabama, and a 16-10 loss to Florida. Now the Tigers look to get the official Ed Orgeron Era off to a winning start against the Cardinals.

Players to watch

Louisville: Do I really need to tell you about Lamar Jackson? I mean, the guy did just win the Heisman Trophy earlier this month. Maybe you've heard of him? He's the quarterback that threw for 3,390 yards, rushed for another 1,538 yards and accounted for 51 total touchdowns (30 passing, 21 rushing). Yeah, him. While it may seem like he's the only player on Louisville's offense at times, don't sleep on running back Brandon Radcliff who averaged 6.6 yards per carry this season, nor receivers James Quick and Cole Hikutini.

On defense, the Cardinals have some studs as well. You can test Josh Harvey-Clemons in the secondary if you want to, but I wouldn't recommend it. Just be careful who you do test, though, because Jaire Alexander has five interceptions and Chucky Williams has three. Also, try to keep DeAngelo Brown, James Hearns and Devonte Fields out of your backfield, because they tend to get in it.

LSU: Leonard Fournette is not playing in this game because he's preparing for his NFL future. Normally this would be a major disappointment -- and it's still a pretty big one because watching Fournette run people over is never not fun -- but the good news is LSU still has another awesome running back named Derrius Guice. Guice stepped in for Fournette this season and all he did was rush for 1,249 yards and 14 touchdowns while averaging eight yards per carry. That's pretty good!

Defensively it will come as no surprise to learn that LSU has some monsters with bright NFL futures as well. Safety Jamal Adams is an absolute stud, and he'll likely be one of the first names you hear when the NFL Draft takes place next spring. There's also linebackers Kendell Beckwith and Duke Riley, and I could watch linemen Arden Key and Davon Godchaux go to work all day long.


This is not an easy game to pick. Both teams are good, and both teams have talent. While I would say that LSU is probably deeper than Louisville, the Cardinals make up for it by having the far superior quarterback in Lamar Jackson. Sorry, Danny Etling, it's nothing personal, it's just reality. I believe the key will be how well Louisville's offensive line can do against LSU's front seven in protecting Jackson, and also how LSU responds to Jackson just improvising when things break down. While this one is a veritable coin flip, I'm going to err on the side of amazing and say that Lamar Jackson does just enough to keep the Cardinals in this one, so I'm taking the points. Pick: Louisville +3.5

Citrus Bowl Expert Picks
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Dennis Dodd
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Jon Solomon
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Jerry Palm
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Tom Fornelli
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Robby Kalland
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Ben Kercheval
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Chip Patterson
LSU -3.5