1. Where’s Harris?
Freshman quarterback Brandon Harris (above) went from starting a game at the defending Southeastern Conference champion — Auburn — to getting one, brief appearance late in a blowout win over Kentucky during the next six games. Harris hasn’t seen significant playing time since his 3-for-14 outing on the Plains. He fumbled in that game, too, and LSU lost by its largest margin in 15 years. Sophomore Anthony Jennings took over from then on, and Harris hasn’t left the bench much. He’ll have more opportunity to play in this game than the past half-dozen.
2. Can they run?
Even before the 2014 season, most knew what LSU’s bread and butter would be this year: running the football. It’s proved true, of course. If the Tigers can run, they can win just about any game against any team. If they struggle to run, they can lose to just about anyone. So, obviously, the X-factor is LSU’s ability to run the football against a Notre Dame defense that’s been porous. LSU’s defense is good enough to slow the Irish. The Tigers are best against a spread scheme that leans on short, quick passes.
3. Whose last game?
We all know LSU’s group of senior starters — Connor Neighbors, La’el Collins, Kenny Hilliard, Terrence Magee, Jermauria Rasco and Ronald Martin — will be playing their final game as Tigers. But what about anyone else? LSU has lost 17 underclassmen to the NFL draft over the previous two years, and the Tigers could lose a handful this year: defensive backs Jalen Collins (above) and Jalen Mills, defensive end Danielle Hunter, offensive linemen Vadal Alexander and Jerald Hawkins and linebacker Kwon Alexander are all draft-eligible.
4. What it really means
Bowl games are seen sometimes as meaningless events, but for a young team that may return a host of potential all-conference stars, this is the first step to a 2015 season that coach Les Miles (above) has raved about — if the program keeps the majority of its junior class. We’ll get to see an offensive line without senior center Elliott Porter (who’s hurt), and freshman safety Jamal Adams is expected to play a large role. There’s the crew of young receivers, too, and a quarterback situation that remains unstable. All of it will be on display.