Say what you want about LSU’s season: that it was encouraging, that it was a disappointment, that the Tigers are miles away from contention, that the Tigers are closer than you think to contention. LSU has a chance to get its ninth win of the season on Dec. 30 in Nashville, which would be far from a disappointment.

If Tigers wants want to see what disappointment really looks like, they can take a look at their bowl opponent.

Notre Dame climbed as high as No. 5 in the nation just two months ago. Heading into their matchup with Florida State, the Fighting Irish looked like a real playoff contender.

That dream unraveled quickly after a game-winning touchdown against the Seminoles was taken off the board, sending Notre Dame to its first loss. That loss began a string of defeats, five in Notre Dame’s final six games. The Irish went from top five to unranked in a matter of four weeks, closing the season with a modest 7-5 record.

They seemed to have all the answers coming into the year. Everett Golson, the quarterback that led them to the national title game against Alabama in 2012, was back from a year-long suspension that stemmed from academic issues. He spent his year away from the school basically in quarterback training camp, and he had the makings of a Heisman campaign.

That fell to pieces quickly, too. Including the Florida State game, he threw 10 interceptions down the stretch. He’s still raw with potential, but this year is marked as a failure after his return.

The contrast to LSU is jarring. While Notre Dame seemed to be a young team, albeit with a steady leader, they turned out to lack an identity. Where LSU seemed to be lost, they had an identity that only became stronger over the course of the season.

No, the Tigers didn’t come into the season with an established signal caller like Golson, and certainly neither Anthony Jennings or Brandon Harris had the championship experience that Golson possesses. Obviously, neither came anywhere close to Golson’s production this season, despite the Notre Dame quarterback’s struggles down the stretch.

What LSU did have was a powerful running game, one that got better and better as the year went on. They had a stable of running backs, led by freshmen Leonard Fournette and Darrel Williams and seniors Terrence Magee and Kenny Hilliard, that defined the team just as much as the quarterback struggles did.

The defense, too, became something that defined the Tigers. It developed and got stronger as the young players on that side of the ball grew into their roles. Despite getting gashed on the ground early in the year, LSU still finished the regular season ranked as the SEC’s best defense, allowing just 305 yards per game and 4.7 yards per play.

LSU wasn’t a national contender like it had been in recent seasons, despite a brief stint in the top 10 early in the year. They didn’t end up as a bottom dweller in the SEC, either, as it looked like they might during their 0-2 start to the SEC season.

The Tigers may not have been a national power, but they certainly could have been a far bigger disappointment than they were.

Just look at Notre Dame for proof of that.