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Tigers return to Orlando to face Irish

The way LSU has been playing for the last two months, the Tigers would be eager to get back on the field for their next game.

But after winning six of seven games, they'll have to wait nearly a month after playing their way into a New Year's Day Bowl.

The 17th-ranked Tigers (9-3) will play 14th-ranked Notre Dame (9-3) in the Citrus Bowl. It's their second consecutive trip to Orlando, having beaten Louisville, 29-9, in the Citrus Bowl last year.

Last season LSU won five of seven games after Ed Orgeron was named interim head coach in the wake of Les Miles' firing after a 2-2 start. That run earned Orgeron the full-time job prior before the bowl game and the Tigers continued the momentum against the Cardinals.

This year's team was struggling with a 3-2 record after a 24-21 upset loss to Troy before a 17-16 victory at Florida, which was ranked No. 21 at the time, started the turnaround. That was the first of three consecutive wins preceding a 24-10 loss at then-No. 1 Alabama.

Since the loss to the Crimson Tide, LSU has put together another three-game win streak, beating Arkansas, Tennessee and Texas A&M.

The Tigers should be the healthiest they've been since the beginning of the season when they face the Irish. Running back Derrius Guice has overcome a leg injury that slowed him for much of the season and the offensive line has mostly recovered from multiple injuries.

Defensive lineman Rashard Lawrence has overcome two ankle injuries and Orgeron said he's hopeful that LSU's top pass rusher, linebacker Arden Key, will be able to play in the bowl.

Key missed the first two games of the regular season because of off-season shoulder surgery. He was rounding into form during the second half of the season, but missed the last two games because of a leg injury and underwent surgery for a broken little finger shortly after the finale.

"I expect him to play," Orgeron said. "As far as I know he's going to play but we haven't started practice yet."

One storyline to keep an eye on during the four weeks leading up to this game is the status of Tigers first-year offensive coordinator Matt Canada.

He and Orgeron haven't always seen eye to eye as the offense has had some big games (Ole Miss, Arkansas, Texas A&M) and some not-so-big games (Florida, Alabama, Tennessee) in SEC play.

When asked about Canada's future after the regular-season finale against Texas A&M, Orgeron seemed more interested in praising tight ends coach Steve Ensminger, who ran the offense during Orgeron's stint as interim head coach last season, before Orgeron got the full-time job and brought in Canada from Pitt.

LSU is unlikely to buy out Canada, which would cost about $3 million, but his name has come up as a possible candidate for head-coaching openings at Rice and Louisiana-Lafayette.

Stay tuned.


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