The 2018 Citrus Bowl will feature the no. 14 Notre Dame Fighting Irish facing the no. 17 LSU Tigers. Kickoff is set for 1:00 EST on Monday, January 1 at Camping World Stadium in Orlando. The game will be nationally televised on ABC.

Oddsmakers view the Tigers as 3-point favorites over the Fighting Irish. The over/under is set at 50.5 points. Click here for a full list of bowl game betting odds and links to game previews.

Citrus Bowl Vegas Spread Preview: Notre Dame vs LSU

This was an important bounce-back season for Brian Kelly and the Fighting Irish. Kelly was on the hot seat after last year’s 4-8 campaign. But after going 9-3 and being relevant nationally at the start of November, Kelly has Notre Dame is moving in the right direction. Late-season losses to Miami and Stanford kept Notre Dame out of the College Football Playoff. But the Irish still have a chance to get to 10 wins if they can beat LSU in the Citrus Bowl.

Ed Orgeron also fought his way off the hot seat in his first full season as LSU’s head coach. After an embarrassing loss to Troy, the Tigers won six of their final seven games, losing only to Alabama, to finish the year 9-3 and 6-2 in the SEC. A win over Notre Dame and a 10-win season will leave little doubt for LSU fans that Orgeron is the right person to lead the program forward.

2018 Citrus Bowl Free Betting Pick & Predictions: LSU -3

With only a field goal to cover, I’m going to lean toward the Tigers in this game. LSU’s strong finish to the regular season makes me think they’ll keep on rolling into bowl season. The Tigers won last year’s Citrus Bowl, beating Lamar Jackson and Louisville by 20 points, and I think they’ll win by a similar scoreline this year.

The first thing that concerns me about Notre Dame is their defensive struggles late in the year. On the season, the Irish gave up 22 points per game. But over their final four games, that number shot up to 33 points per game. For the most part, it happened because teams had success running the ball, particularly Miami and Stanford. That could be a concern heading into the Citrus Bowl.

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If the Irish are vulnerable against the run, even a little, LSU is a team that can take advantage. Running back Derrius Guice fought through some injuries early in the season, but he totaled 371 rushing yards and five touchdowns over the final three games of the season. He’ll be hoping to boost his draft stock with a big performance in the Citrus Bowl. 

I also have some concerns about the Notre Dame offense, which is facing one of the SEC’s finest defenses. The Tigers gave up less than 19 points per game this season. Also, only two teams managed to score more than 24 points against LSU all season. That tells me that the Irish could have trouble getting in the end zone against LSU.

Part of Notre Dame’s problem is Brandon Wimbush’s struggles as a passer. While he’s a great athlete who gives the Irish running game a boost, Wimbush completed less than 50% of his passes on the season. He completed 50% or fewer of his passes in eight of 11 games this year. That will implore the Tigers to fill the box to stop the Irish from running the ball and force Wimbush beat them with his arm. 

I’m not sure Wimbush will be able to beat the Tigers with his arm. With an athletic LSU secondary, I also worry about Wimbush turning the ball over. Meanwhile, LSU quarterback Danny Etling is a more competent game manager. He completed 60% of his passes and threw just two interceptions this season. He’s also more apt to take advantage of matchups downfield if Notre Dame crowds the line of scrimmage.

Ultimately, I expect LSU to be a little better at the line of scrimmage and be more capable of making plays in the passing game. Both teams should bring their best effort, but I think the Tigers are the better team. LSU will easily cover the 3-point spread.