LSU football scouting report, score prediction for Texas Bowl vs Kansas State

LSU football is undergoing philosophical and structural changes, as coach Brian Kelly and his new staff start to get their feet wet in Baton Rouge.

But before the baton is officially handed off to Kelly, LSU (6-6) has one more game to play on Tuesday (8 p.m. CT, ESPN) against Kansas State (7-5) in the TaxAct Texas Bowl in Houston.

Here's a look at the Tigers and Wildcats heading into college football's final game of the season before the National Championship Game.

Who will be LSU's quarterback?

LSU submitted a waiver to the NCAA, requesting that freshman quarterback Garrett Nussmeier — who's appeared in four games — could play in the bowl game without losing his redshirt status.

But, according to a report from The Athletic, Nussmeier was not granted the waiver and has decided that he will not play in order to protect his redshirt eligibility.

With Max Johnson transferring to Texas A&M and Myles Brennan — who announced his return to LSU from the transfer portal on Dec.16 — asserting that he's unavailable to play in the bowl game, Nussmeier is the Tigers' only scholarship quarterback.

Without Nussmeier, the Tigers have two non-scholarship options — freshmen Tavion Faulk and Matt O'Dowd.

Faulk was a star quarterback at Carencro High School, winning the state championship his senior year. It was the Golden Bears' second title and first since 1992 when Faulk's uncle — and LSU running backs coach — Kevin Faulk was their star ball carrier.

O'Dowd had an offer to play at Davidson but walked on at LSU instead. Former coach Ed Orgeron in August announced that he was the third-string quarterback following Brennan's left arm injury.

Besides O'Dowd and Faulk, one outside-of-the-box option is senior wide receiver Jontre Kirklin, who played quarterback in high school and was LSU's scout team quarterback in 2019.

To make matters more difficult for whoever the quarterback is, LSU will also be without top running back Tyrion Davis-Price who declared for the NFL Draft on Friday.

More: Five things to know about LSU's new offensive coordinator Mike Denbrock

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Filling holes on defense

LSU lost two more big names on its defense two weeks ago, as senior linebacker Damone Clark and defensive tackle Neil Farrell announced that they were opting out to prepare for the NFL Draft.

Farrell and Clark were constants on LSU's defense. Clark had a career-high 136 total tackles and 5.5 sacks in the middle of the Tigers' defense. Farrell was a force up front with 45 total tackles and a pair of sacks.

Both played in every game for LSU and provided consistent production while stars Derek Stingley Jr., Eli Ricks, Andre Anthony and Ali Gaye missed most of the season due to injury.

Without Farrell, Clark, Ricks, Anthony, Stingley or Gaye, LSU's defense has plenty of holes to fill.

Look for sophomores B.J. Ojulari and Jacquelin Roy to try to step up along LSU's defensive line. If Maason Smith is healthy and available, the SEC All-Freshman team selection could also give this unit a major boost.

Minus Clark, senior Micah Baskerville and sophomore Mike Jones Jr. are the two linebackers most likely to fill the void.

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A peek at Kansas State's offense

Like LSU, Kansas State has yet to name a starter at quarterback. Senior starter Skylar Thompson missed the Wildcats' last game against Texas despite still dressing for the matchup in November.

Kansas State is used to experiencing turnover under center. Thompson played in just three games last season, as Will Howard — a sophomore and currently the backup — took the majority of snaps. Howard also started the final game of the regular season against Texas and sophomore third-string quarterback Jaren Lewis has even seen some action this season.

But regardless of who is at quarterback, LSU's No.1 priority defensively will be slowing down sophomore running back Deuce Vaughn, the leading rusher and receiver for Kansas State. He has 18 total touchdowns and over 1,700 yards from scrimmage and when he plays well, so do the Wildcats.

Prediction

Kansas State 21, LSU 13: With LSU's offense in a state of flux at quarterback and Kansas State's offense not being the most explosive of units — averaging only 26.3 points — expect a low-scoring affair. The Wildcats also did not have any players opt out of this game, a helpful boost against an LSU team that will be extremely shorthanded.

This article originally appeared on Lafayette Daily Advertiser: Texas Bowl: LSU football vs Kansas State score prediction, scouting report