It's GameDay: LSU Set for Top 10 Matchup in Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl
LSU Sports Interactive
ATLANTA -- LSU held its final on-field preparations for ninth-ranked Miami here on Thursday as the 10th-ranked Tigers went through a 45-minute walk-thru at the Georgia Dome on the eve of the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl.
LSU and Miami will square off on Friday at 7:30 p.m. ET in one of the most anticipated bowl games this year. The LSU-Miami game is one of only two bowl games to feature a pair of top 10 teams, joining the national championship contest that pits No. 1 Southern Cal against No. 2 Texas. The game will be televised to a national audience by ESPN with Bob Griese, Brad Nessler and Lynn Swann handling the call.
LSU, the runner-up in the Southeastern Conference, brings a 10-2 overall mark into the Chick-fil-A Bowl, while the Hurricanes are 9-2 overall. This meeting will be the first between the teams since a 44-3 Miami victory in Baton Rouge in 1988.
"We have had a great week of preparation and have really enjoyed being a part of the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl," LSU coach Les Miles said on Thursday. "We have prepared hard and we're looking forward to playing a very good Miami team. We're thrilled to have a quality opponent in Miami, a team that won the national title in 2001 and is a traditional power in college football."
Friday's game will also mark the conclusion of a season that had the Tigers enduring two major hurricanes that forced the postponement of one game (North Texas) and turned another would-be home game against Arizona State into a road contest. Through it all, the Tigers still managed four wins over top 15 teams and became just the fourth team in school history to record 10 wins during the regular season.
"There was no routine for us at the start of the season," Miles said. "Our players learned to have balance, learned how to re-direct, and learned to understand hurdles and obstacles. The great compliment is to our players because they learned to overcome the obstacles and still managed to achieve an outstanding season."
Friday's game will have the Tigers starting Matt Flynn at quarterback in what will be his first collegiate start. Flynn, who is starting in place of an injured JaMarcus Russell, has played at quarterback in six games this season, completing 14 of 26 passes for 261 yards and five touchdowns.
According to Miles, Flynn has done a good job during LSU's two weeks of bowl practice and is ready to play against the Hurricanes.
"I think the time has really benefited Matt," Miles said of Flynn's practice time during the two weeks of bowl practice. "To know he's the starter, he was able to take the reigns of the team and prepare that way. We have great confidence in him as a quarterback. He's done very well in the games he's played in this y ear and we think he'll play well on Friday against Miami."
Miles, however, did add that Flynn is going to have to get some help from the LSU offensive line if the Tigers are going to be able to have any success on offense against a Miami defense that's ranked No. 3 in the nation in terms of total yards allowed per game.
"We're going to have to protect our quarterback and one great way to do that is being able to run the football," Miles said. "Balance on offense is a difficult challenge that we are going to have do against a great Miami defense. Our offensive line is going to have to play well in both phases, run and pass, and it will be a great challenge against a quality Miami defensive front."
When the Tigers go to the running game, senior Joseph Addai appears to finally be healthy after struggling with a nagging ankle injury for the final five weeks of the season. Addai still finished the year ranked eighth in the SEC with 781 yards and eight touchdowns. Junior Justin Vincent, who has had his share of big moments during his LSU career, is second on the squad with 482 yards and five scores.
When the Tigers go to the passing game, junior Dwayne Bowe and senior Skyler Green are the top two targets for LSU. Bowe has 38 receptions for 659 yards and nine touchdowns, while Green has caught 32 passes for 268 yards.
When Miami has the ball, the Tigers will continue to rely on its defensive front, one that features All-Americas in Kyle Williams and Claude Wroten. Through 12 games, the Tigers are allowing only 15 points per contest and rank among the nation's best in total defense by holding the opposition to only 276 yards per game.
"I see two good defensive teams, which could make it a relatively low scoring game," Miles said. "I think the key in this type of game is mistakes. The team that makes fewer mistakes will have a better chance to win the game.
"And the ability to operate your special teams will be crucial. Both teams have very good special teams and I expect that to play a role in this game."