I was asked to preview the Citrus Bowl. I’m really not sure why. I’ve felt that the season wrapped up decently with a Big Ten Championship game featuring Purdue.
But our dictator MNWildcat asked, so here I am to preview the Citrus Bowl. Sponsored by Cheez-it. Are you feeling the cheesiest?!? Or like me, are you are lactose intolerant and think we should kick the dairy state out of the Big Ten?
What: The 77th Citrus Bowl
When: January 2, 2023 1 PM Eastern (or noon for you degenerate central time people)
Where: Camping World Stadium, Orlando, Florida or ABC
Why: So the Cheez-It King can Crown a Champion
When last we saw Purdue, they were putting up a spirited fight in the Big Ten championship game against Michigan. I can only assume that the same exact team and coaching staff will defeat Brian Kelly’s LSU team.
BREAKING NEWS FROM A MONTH AGO!
Well, shit. Jeff Brohm has gone off to Louisville. As has most of the coaching staff. The three senior stars of the offense have opted out so as to not trash their late round NFL draft potential. Numerous transfer-portalers further decimate the roster. At least the rumors of tens of academic casualties appear to be untrue.
Brian Brohm is still coaching at Purdue 1 more game for some reason and will be calling plays on offense. I guess somebody has to call the plays and at least Brian has called plays before. Mark Hagen will call defensive plays for the first time in his career. Hopefully this is not the last time we see Hagen on the Purdue sideline, but he will unfortunately be in Louisville for at least the foreseeable future.
a morally corrupt Louisiana State
When we (me and the dozens of Purdue fans reading this) last saw LSU, they were getting their face kicked in by Texas A&M. Since then they’ve got their face kicked in by Georgia. This season the Tigers had a perfectly fine record of 9-4 with blowout losses to Tennessee, Georgia, Texas A&M, and a close loss to Florida State.
Louisiana State “University” is an athletic program masquerading as a university. As much fun as it was to mock Tennessee last year - at least that’s mostly their fanbase and the university administration isn’t filled to the brim with flawed people. LSU though - well I guess anything is okay there as long as you win a national championship. I have nothing against LSU fans (after all I’ve met none of them and had zero reason to interact with them online), but that university administration is terrible.
Let me say this just as clearly as possible for those of you in the southeastern United States. Athletic success is not a substitute for being a decent, upstanding human being. Athletic success is not a substitute for academics. It just means more is a joke. You can think sports are important, but fix your priorities.
Sixth year QB Austin Burton will be making his second start at Purdue as the starter Aidan O’Connell has opted out. Burton has appeared in 4 games for Purdue this year, but against mostly subpar competition. In those four games, Burton has gone 24 of 32 for 199 yards and 3 TDs to 1 INT. Burton has also ran the ball 13 times for 42 yards. His new QB coach for the bowl game only is Drew Brees. You may have heard of him. LSU fans apparently think its the worst betrayal ever for Brees to help coach Purdue after playing for the Saints for a long time.
Offensive line depth is a major issue for Purdue due to injuries and transfers.
Starting guard Spencer Holstege has transferred to UCLA. He was considered by some (Pro Football Focus) as the best pass blocking guard in the B1G. Holstege will be replaced in the starting lineup by either junior Jared Bycznski or graduate senior Sione Finau. Finau has appeared as a backup in all 13 games this season while Bycznski has only appeared in four.
Former starters Gus Hartwig and Cam Craig as well as reserve Daniel Johnson are out due to injury (Craig has actually medically retired already). Hartwig has been replaced by Josh Kaltenberger and Craig by Mahamane Moussa both of whom have some upside (and are very important guys for incoming coach Ryan Walters to get to stay) but are underclassmen. The right side of the line is at least still anchored Marcus Mbow and Eric Miller.
Behind the six guys I’ve mentioned though, the remaining offensive linemen only played against Indiana State this year. Feels like maybe Purdue should have recruited at least one scholarship offensive linemen as part of their 2023 football class to keep developing depth.
The WR room remains deep, but the star of the season (Charlie Jones) has also opted out. There are a lot of decent options, but who will step up among them?
Star TE Payne Durham has also opted out. Former QB and third string TE in the summer Paul Piferi will get the starting nod. Piferi has shown himself to be a capable pass catcher, but can struggle blocking against physical teams. I wouldn’t be shocked to see some 4 WR sets too.
The running back room is headlined by now scholarship player Devin Mockobee. Backup Kobe Lewis has transferred out leaving just Dylan Downing as depth.
LSU gave up 50 to Georgia, 40 to Tennessee, and 38 to Texas A&M
Three of LSU’s starting 4 on the D-line have declared for the draft and won’t be playing. Similarly the starting two corners are out.
The LB group however is all intact and may just be the stars of the LSU defense. LB Harold Perkins is the biggest remaining pass rushing threat and led the team in sacks as well as tackles for loss. Fellow linebackers Micah Baskerville and Greg Penn III were the team’s leaders in tackles.
LSU’s starting QB Jayden Daniels is a dual threat. Daniels passed for over 2700 yards and leading the team in rushing with over 800 yards. He has been nursing an ankle injury the last couple of games, but is expected to play and LSU’s coach thought he would be healthy by now. If he has recovered from his ankle injury and is fully healthy, I quite frankly don’t know how Purdue contains him in the run game.
The RB room is a more than capable committee with four guys all averaging over 4.5 yards/carry.
LSU doesn’t heavily involve either the TEs or RBs in passing game. WR Jaray Jenkins has declared for the draft and opted out. At 6’4” Jenkins was a big redzone target and led the team in receiving TDs with 6. The top two receivers on the season though were Malik Nabers and Kayshon Boutte. Both are expected to play in this one.
It’s no secret that Purdue did not have very good secondary play this year. To make things worse, nickel back Jalen Graham and cornerback Cory Trice are both sitting this one out.
Along the defensive line, there has been conflicting information on whether starters Branson Deen or Lawrence Johnson will be playing. Both are transferring but different outlets are reporting that they are or aren’t playing. If they are out, Purdue’s defensive line takes a huge hit.
LSU 45, Purdue 13
Look, this was a difficult matchup for a full strength Purdue team with their coaching staff and full complement of players. LSU has a dual threat QB (which Purdue has really struggled with this year) and a more than capable defense. LSU also has significantly more depth than Purdue so although both teams have a number of opt outs and transfers, I think Purdue is hit harder by them. Combine that with a skeleton coaching staff - the head coach, RB coach, WR coach, and DC have been gone for weeks - and its easy to see this one getting out of hand.
That’s no reason to be down on what this year’s team accomplished of the future of the players in this game. They won the West division. They get a brand new coaching staff next year. Drawing a difficult matchup against a ranked team without a full coaching staff for the game is what it is. I’d say bet on LSU, but well Drew Brees made that impossible for all of you.
Boiler Up! Prove me wrong, players.
This poll is closed