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Preview: Tigers Set to Face Wisconsin on New Year's Day in ReliaQuest Bowl

Garrett Nussmeier set to make first career start at quarterback for LSU

by Harrison Valentine
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Preview: Tigers Set to Face Wisconsin on New Year's Day in ReliaQuest Bowl

Tampa, Fla. – LSU looks to secure the program’s 18th 10-win season on Monday when the Tigers face Wisconsin in the ReliaQuest Bowl on New Year’s Day.

Kickoff is set for 11:04 a.m. CT on ESPN2 and the LSU Sports Radio Network (pregame starts at 9 a.m. CT).

Redshirt sophomore Garrett Nussmeier will make his first career start at quarterback for the Tigers. 

“It doesn’t really feel new to me,” said Nussmeier. “I feel like I have great relationships with all my teammates, all my coaches. It doesn’t feel new getting reps with these guys. It’s great to get all the reps now and build chemistry with them, but I think we’ve done a great job as an offense of coming together and doing the right things.”

Nussmeier will lead an LSU offense at full strength into postseason play, which includes two AP All-America selections in Malik Nabers and Brian Thomas Jr. Nabers is 22 yards away from breaking the program record for receiving yards in a career.

In three seasons, Nussmeier has accounted for 1,325 yards passing and eight touchdowns, completing close to 60 percent of his passes. Now, after backing up Heisman Trophy winner Jayden Daniels for two years, the keys to the car have been passed to the Lake Charles native.

“When you go from being the backup to the starter, everything is a little bit faster,” said head coach Brian Kelly. “There’s a need to communicate and take the reigns. When you’re a backup, you can muddle your way through it a little bit. There’s no faking now. You’re running it. That’s why he’s here. He loves the bright lights and rises to that occasion.”

Learning behind college football’s most outstanding player has been invaluable, says Nussmeier. The ability to push one another in practice and learn from the best gives Nussmeier a ton of confidence heading into his first start at LSU.

Despite not playing in the game, Daniels is with the team in Tampa to support his teammates.

“We made each other better every day,” Nussmeier said. “That was the best part. I think that’s helped my career the most, having to compete against such a high level player every single day. We pushed each other. There were no off days. I think that’s what I took away the most.”

Joe Sloan and Cortez Hankton will serve as the interim co-offensive coordinators. Sloan coaches the LSU quarterbacks, while Hankton serves as passing game coordinator and wide receivers coach.

The Tigers will look to secure back-to-back 10-win seasons with a victory on Monday. Playing for championships is the expectation at LSU, Kelly says, but consistency is key to getting there, and back-to-back 10-win seasons closes the gap towards being elite.

“We get to open up (New Year’s Day),” Kelly said. “This will be the first game out of the shoot. We get to set the standard for what football will be on that day. I know our guys are excited. When it pops up as a New Year’s Day game, I think our players feel like they are part of the pageantry in postseason.”

Wisconsin is led by senior quarterback Tanner Mordecai, who passed for 1,687 yards and six touchdowns during the 2023 regular season. Junior Braelon Allen leads the Badgers’ rushing attack with 984 yards on 181 carries for 12 touchdowns. Sophomore Will Pauling leads all receivers with 66 catches for 694 yards and four scores, averaging 10.5 yards per catch.

“We have a great opponent in Wisconsin,” Kelly said. Coach Fickell’s team is one that will play physical. From our perspective, when you play a Big 10 team, it will be well-coached and well-prepared. We’re excited about the matchup and about playing on New Year’s Day.”

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