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LSU VS WISCONSIN RELIAQUEST BOWL 2024: PREVIEW PT.I

Updated: Dec 29, 2023

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By LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN

FOLLOW ON X @LonnPhillips 


On New Year's Day (cue U2 masterpiece), LSU will face Wisconsin in Tampa Bay for the ridiculously named Reliaquest Bowl for a noon eastern, 11am central time kickoff, and while some questions are yet to be answered regarding lineups, personnel availability, coaching responsibilities, etc, there are still some mysteries that Head Coach Brian Kelly (or others) revealed ahead of the Tigers' upcoming bowl game.

2022 & 2023 second stringer Garrett Nussmeier will start at quarterback in what will be his biggest opportunity since the 2022 SEC Championship game....where Heisman-winner Jayden Daniels went down with injury, only for Nussmeier to toss 294 yards and 3 TDs.

Now with offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock gone out the door to South Bend, WRs Coach Cortez Hankton and QBs Coach Joe Sloan will share offensive coordinating duties vs Wisconsin. The New Year's Day showdown will likely be an audition for the pair as Brian Kelly starts his search for a new play-caller.

We'll see how these changes at QB and OC affect LSU's 1st ranked offense, who should be fielding pretty close to a full roster, if Brian Thomas Jr and Charles Turner both appear.

We know Malik Nabers will likely be retired to the sidelines for, hopefully, a walk-off ovation after he notches 23 yards and overtakes Josh Reed's program record in career receiving. It'll definitely become an emotionally charged moment when #8 walks off the field for one final time as a Tiger, ending his career at WRU as the #1 leader in yards & receptions...and accomplishing that feat in under 3 full seasons.

It should be an intriguing experiment where LSU's freshmen WRs finally get some looks (0 receptions in 2023 between Shelton Sampson Jr, Jalen Brown, Kyle Parker and Khai Prean), tight ends Mac Markway & Ka'morreun Pimpton will also threaten defenses for the Nuss / Sloan attack (Markway as the total package & Pimpton as a primal vertical threat hybrid); We'll probably get a good dose of debutant backs Trey Holly and Kaleb Jackson, the exciting, electric 2023 freshman pair who experienced a strong overture to their LSU careers this past fall.

Offensively it will be exciting to see how well this nucleus perform under the leadership of Garrett Nussmeier, but defensively, questions abound as far as availability, personnel choices, performance level, as well as coaching futures, among other concerns.

Will 2022 All-American & 2023 #18 Mekhi Wingo stay at LSU for next fall or will this be his final appearance as a Tiger? If so, how much will he play during the Reliaquest Bowl itself??

ANSWER It's hard to tell, regardless of our good feelings about a return. Despite our friendship with Mekhi, we've left him alone concerning his future....after playing through two injuries which required consecutive seasons of off-season surgery, #18 owes LSU nothing.

Considering his practice participation, I'm certain he's feeling good enough to play a large role in the game, however, coaches & trainers will likely be less gung ho, trying to keep their All-American from harm at such an important career crossroads and during an unnecessary game.

So, Wingo will likely participate for around 25 snaps, and as LSUOdyssey predicted a month ago in this article, we feel, from all that we've known, heard or seen, Wingo will likely return for one more season, but I won't call that a guarantee at this moment.

Will defensive coordinator Matt House utilize Whit Weeks over Omar Speights?

ANSWER Probably not. Unless injury befalls Speights, prepare to be frustrated if you're a fan of the "McConaughey-esque" Weeks. If any of the last 7 games are any indication, his reps could be few and far between....which hurts, considering this young man has options, such as UGA, chomping at the bit to sign him.

Cornerbacks Duce Chestnutt and Denver Harris won't be available or traveling with the team for LSU's bowl game, though Head Coach Brian Kelly didn't rule out discussions "after the season" regarding their future on roster or campus. With a new NCAA transfer rule change, Harris and Chestnutt could now both enter the portal.

Regardless of their unavailability, CBs Coach Robert Steeples will most likely start strong-performing tandem Sage Ryan and Javien Toviano at either corner spot. I hope we also see freshmen Jeremiah Hughes and Ashton Stamps each given extended reps;

Instead of the poor-performing duo of Major Burns and Andre Sam at safety, I would love to see safeties Coach Kerry Cooks start and stick with impressive freshman Ryan Yaites at one of the back end positions.

Will Matt House finally give powerhouse first year edge rusher Dashawn Womack a full game to display his empirical sackmaster powers, let alone a full quarter of snaps?

ANSWER

I expect we'll see plenty of Womack, as surely Matt House couldn't be stubborn enough to keep him on the sidelines even during a bowl game.

The Maryland-native 5 star was medieval when appearing for LSU throughout 2023, making each and every snap count....If House won't play him on January 1st, then when will he?

Regarding snap counts or opportunities, specifically for in demand targets such as Whit Weeks or Dashawn Womack, do not overlook the playing time factor when it comes to athletes making future transfer decisions. Some guys, Campbell, Perkins, Toviano, Womack, Weeks etc are just born ready.

All of these ingredients come together to create a bowl game full of incredible details for LSU football junkies to pour over, dissect, analyze and assess for months into the offseason until Spring ball offers a clearer picture of the pathway ahead.

For Matt House's historically poor defense, it's about creating an identity now, finding a purpose, a coordinated plan, and identifying, let alone retaining your best talent with a fixed eye towards the fall....

....make no mistake, this is a big game for Matt House. LSU's under-fire DC needs to generate some kind of excitement, some kind of good will or push in the right direction.


PREVIEW PT.II: OUR 5 PLAYERS TO WATCH VS WISCONSIN UP NEXT


By LONN PHILLIPS SULLIVAN

FOLLOW ON X @LonnPhillips 

Copyright 2023 Uninterrupted Writings Inc



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