LSU will play in Florida this season after all.
The Tigers will meet Louisville in the Citrus Bowl on New Year’s Eve, potentially pitting the Cardinals’ Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback against LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda’s salty unit in Orlando, Florida.
"It ought to be an exciting matchup," LSU coach Ed Orgeron said Sunday.
The game is set for a 10 a.m. CST kickoff Dec. 31 from Camping World Stadium, the site of Clemson’s win over Virginia Tech in the ACC title game Saturday. ABC will televise the game from the home city of Disney World.
"We're going to Disney World!" LSU punter Josh Growden, a native of Australia, tweeted a few moments after the announcement.
It’s a lofty but expected landing spot for an LSU team strapped with four losses. The Citrus Bowl gets the first selection of any of the bowls tied in with the Southeastern Conference, outside of the Sugar Bowl. Alabama’s lopsided win over Florida in the SEC title game Saturday secured Auburn’s place in the Sugar Bowl as the second-highest SEC team in the College Football Playoff rankings.
That left four four-loss SEC teams for the Citrus to choose from: LSU, Florida, Tennessee or Texas A&M. The bowl chose the Tigers (7-4, 5-3), who are ranked No. 19 in the latest Associated Press poll and are fresh off a Thanksgiving night beating of the Aggies. Tennessee landed in the Music City Bowl, Florida is in the Outback Bowl and Texas A&M is in the Texas Bowl.
Citrus Bowl CEO Steve Hogan said Tennessee was "on the board," but the Volunteers' season-ending loss at Vanderbilt shifted the focus to LSU.
Tickets to the Citrus Bowl can be purchased at LSUSports.net. The Tigers will be the visitors and will occupy the East sideline.
Of all places, this wacky season will end in the Sunshine State. LSU was scheduled to play the Gators in Gainesville, Florida, on Oct. 8, but Hurricane Matthew’s projected path resulted in a postponement. Tense negotiations among UF, LSU and the SEC followed over the next few days. The Gators agreed to travel to Baton Rouge for a game they eventually won 16-10 on Nov. 19, and LSU agreed to play at Florida each of the next two years.
"I’m excited for our seniors, the guys that pulled together," Orgeron said. "This is going to be a fun trip, an exciting trip."
The Citrus, which began as the Tangerine Bowl in 1947 and also is formerly known as the Capital One Bowl, normally pits an SEC and Big Ten team, but the bowl selected the ACC’s second-best squad this year in the No. 15 Cardinals (9-3, 7-1) and their flashy quarterback, Lamar Jackson. LSU and Louisville will meet for the first time.
Jackson, a dual-threat standout out of Florida, has run for more than 1,500 yards and thrown for more than 3,300. He has accounted for 51 touchdowns and is a favorite to claim the Heisman Trophy at Saturday’s ceremony in New York.
LSU will play Louisville in the Citrus Bowl at 10 a.m. New Year's Eve. Here's more about the…
"Dynamic," Orgeron said of Jackson. "The last guy I’ve seen like that was called Michael Vick."
He meets one of the nation’s toughest defenses. Aranda, who recently agreed to a new three-year contract to remain at LSU, leads an LSU defense that ranks 13th in yards per game (323) and sixth in scoring (16.4 points per game). They’ve allowed 16 touchdowns, the second-fewest of any team in the nation.
LSU players were buzzing over the matchup Sunday afternoon.
Cornerback Dwayne Thomas jested on social media about how many sacks the Tigers might get against Jackson, tagging the quarterback in a tweet he later deleted.
"Tremendous challenge," Orgeron said. "I like Dave Aranda in all our challenges. I like our defense. I know Lamar Jackson and the offense is going to pose problems, but it’s something that we’ll be able to do. We have a very good defense."
They get the top-ranked scoring offense in the land (45.3 ppg), a unit led by Jackson and coached by former Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino. Petrino interviewed for the LSU job when the program hired Les Miles in December 2004. Thought of by some as the favorite, the then-Louisville coach interviewed for the job twice before university leaders selected Miles.
Petrino was never a candidate to replace Miles. The school promoted Ed Orgeron to the full-time job late last month, and the Cajun coach will lead a team for the first time in a bowl game.
He could do it without his starting running back, Leonard Fournette (ankle), and middle linebacker, Kendell Beckwith (knee). Fournette is "day (to) day," Orgeron said, and Beckwith will miss the game with a knee injury he suffered against Florida, effectively ending the senior's college career.
LSU running back Leonard Fournette is "day (to) day," and middle linebacker Kendell Beckwith…
The Tigers are in the Citrus Bowl for the fourth time. They beat Wake Forest in 1979 and lost to Iowa on a last-second touchdown pass on Jan. 1, 2005 — Nick Saban’s final game as coach. Penn State beat LSU 19-17 after the 2009 season in rainy conditions and on a mud-slicked, natural grass field. The stadium now has artificial turf.
The Tigers are making their 17th consecutive bowl appearance, and they have a shot to continue one of the nation’s most impressive streaks: They have won eight games every year since 2000. This is the 48th bowl appearance in school history, and the program has a 24-22-1 bowl record.