LSU vs. Louisville: Game Grades, Analysis for Tigers

Sean FryeFeatured ColumnistDecember 31, 2016

LSU vs. Louisville: Game Grades, Analysis for Tigers

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    John Raoux/Associated Press

    Now that's how LSU's season could've gone from the very start. 

    The LSU Tigers, a College Football Playoff hopeful at the start of the season, demolished the Louisville Cardinals, a playoff contender deep into the season, 29-9 in the Citrus Bowl. 

    LSU's defense nearly forced Lamar Jackson to return to New York and give back that trophy he won a few weeks ago, while Derrius Guice and the rest of the offense clicked on all cylinders.

    The Ed Orgeron Era has officially begun, and it seems as though prosperity could lie ahead.

    With that, let's check out the game grades for LSU in the Citrus Bowl.

Derrius Guice

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    John Raoux/Associated Press

    Grade: A

    For LSU, this season was never truly about Leonard Fournette, who was hobbled with an ankle injury throughout the campaign. 

    No, it was about Derrius Guice, who finished the Citrus Bowl with 138 rushing yards and two total touchdowns, along with a highlight truck of Louisville's kicker.

    While Fournette was busy being disappointed about his hurt ankle and prepping for the pros, here's what Guice was disappointed about after today, per Harrison Valentine of InsideTheTigers.com:

    "Coaches did a great job preparing us. We were disappointed we didn't make the playoffs," Guice said.

    Guice has Tiger blood, and now he gets to have a full offseason preparing to be the top back in Baton Rouge.

LSU's Passing Game

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    John Raoux/Associated Press

    Grade: A-

    There's no guarantee that Danny Etling has firmly locked up the starting gig under center for LSU. But his Citrus Bowl performance was more than satisfactory enough to instill faith this offseason.

    The former Purdue transfer was 16-of-29 passing for two touchdowns and 217 yards. 

    Etling connected with six different Tigers, but none more so than Malachi Dupre, who led the Tigers with seven catches for 139 yards.

    How Etling gels with Matt Canada—LSU's new offensive coordinator that actually recruited Etling when he was at Wisconsin—this spring will go a long way to determining Etling's future.

    But on Saturday afternoon, the Tigers showed a spark through the air that was lacking for much of this season.

Tigers' Defense

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    John Raoux/Associated Press

    Grade: A+

    LSU's defense was nearly flawless against Lamar Jackson and Co.

    The Heisman winner was limited to 33 yards rushing on 26 carries while only throwing for 153 yards on 10-of-27 passing attempts.

    There was plenty of criticism for LSU's star, Fournette, skipping the bowl game. The Tigers' defense made it look like Jackson did the same.

    It wasn't just about stopping Jackson, who was sacked eight times, though. The Tigers didn't allow a touchdown and only allowed 220 total yards of offense.

    LSU's identity is centered around its defense, and Saturday showed that Orgeron isn't aiming to change that anytime soon.

Faith in Ed Orgeron

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    John Raoux/Associated Press

    Grade: A

    When LSU didn't get its top candidate in Tom Herman, the Tigers' administration removed the interim tag from Ed Orgeron.

    Fans in Death Valley rallied around the fan favorite, but questions about Orgeron after his failed stint at Ole Miss still lingered.

    And they still do.

    But on Saturday, without the leash of an interim title restricting him, Orgeron delivered LSU's best showing of the year with a rout of Louisville.

    The now-permanent replacement to Les Miles must prove his mettle on the recruiting trail—his efforts may not see positive or negative results for a few years. But Orgeron certainly seems to have LSU on the right track.