The game featured the independent Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the LSU Tigers of the Southeastern Conference; both teams finished the 2017 season with 9–3 records, and both teams finished in the top-20 of all major polls. Notre Dame, making their first appearance in the Citrus Bowl, was the designated visiting team. LSU, the designated home team, appeared in the game for the second season in a row, and fifth time overall. For the second year in a row, no Big Ten team appeared in the Citrus Bowl; since Wisconsin committed to the Orange Bowl, the Citrus Bowl was allowed to pick Notre Dame or an Atlantic Coast Conference team.
This was the fourth bowl meeting between the Fighting Irish and Tigers, with LSU winning twice previously, and Notre Dame once. LSU prevailed 27–9 in the 1997 Independence Bowl, and 41–14 in the 2007 Sugar Bowl, and Notre Dame won 31–28 in the 2014 Music City Bowl. Notre Dame and LSU met eight times in the regular season between 1970 and 1998, with the Irish holding a 5–3 edge.