ORLANDO, Fla. — Louisville has handled its fair share of tough defensive teams this season.
The Cardinals have excelled against several effective units in their own conference, including scoring a combined 115 points against Florida State and Boston College, two of the best defenses in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
They meet an LSU defense Saturday in the Citrus Bowl that may be one of the most dangerous they’ve faced this year.
The Tigers have shut down high-powered offenses with ease this year, holding teams to an average of 16.4 points per game, the sixth-best mark in the nation. They held Alabama, which is averaging 40.5 points per game, to 10 points. They held Missouri, which averages 31.4 points per game, to 7 points.
“From watching film, I can see that D-line, you know, they have nice speed,” Louisville sophomore quarterback Lamar Jackson said. “We got a great offensive line, so we just got to get ready.”
Everyone knows the LSU football team will soon have a new offense.
No. 19 LSU (7-4) will have its hands full handling Jackson, the Heisman Trophy winner. Jackson has thrown for 3,390 yards and 30 touchdowns. He is also the center of the Cardinals’ run game, rushing for a team-high 1,538 yards and 21 touchdowns.
Overall, Louisville has had one of the best offenses in the nation this season, ranking seventh among all teams with 6,705 total yards of offense and second in scoring with an average of 45.3 points per game. But the Cardinals know that they cannot take LSU’s defense for granted.
“They’re very aggressive, play a lot of man coverage. They’re fast, they’re strong, they’re physical,” Louisville sophomore wide receiver Jaylen Smith said. “They’re a typical, I would like to say, SEC secondary, so they expect to try to get out to the pass rush so they pull out a man coverage. So it’ll be fun to go up against them.”
The 15th-ranked Cardinals (9-3) will also have to deal with several standout players that have led the Tigers defense this season, including senior cornerback Tre’Davious White.
“(LSU will) be a tough opponent,” Smith said. “They got Tre’Davious White. He was a Thorpe finalist so, you know, you can’t look past that.”
White, who is one of several LSU players who are expected to be selected in the NFL draft this April, has had an effective season for the Tigers, recording 31 total tackles and two interceptions. While the Cardinals are hoping to snap their two-game losing streak and cap off Jackson’s Heisman year with a bowl win, the team is also excited by the opportunity to take on an Southeastern Conference opponent.
“We’re (an) up-and-coming conference. We’ve always been considered one of the top conferences, but I feel like we could consider ourself up there with the SEC,” Smith said. “I enjoy playing against SEC teams, I enjoy playing against teams who didn’t recruit me period because, you know, not to say I have a chip on my shoulder, but I just like to show them what they’re missing out on.”
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