Notre Dame vs. Ohio State: Everything You Need to Know for the Fiesta Bowl
Two of college football’s historic powerhouses square off in the desert. Oh, and Battlefrog is apparently a thing.
Battlefrog Fiesta Bowl
January 1, 1 p.m. ET (ESPN)
No. 8 Notre Dame (10-2) vs. No. 7 Ohio State (11-1)
How They Got Here
Notre Dame’s playoff run came to a dramatic end with a last-second field goal loss at Stanford. But a strong strength-of-schedule and marketable name brand made them an easy choice for an at-large bid. Ohio State, meanwhile, might have been the hottest team at the end of the season but fell just short of the playoff after their own last-second loss to Michigan State. Big Ten runner-up Iowa got the conference’s coveted Rose Bowl bid, but the Buckeyes secured a nice consolation prize with a Fiesta Bowl slot.
When Ohio State Has the Ball
Ezekiel Elliott, the Buckeyes’ star running back, is expected to play despite being arrested last week for driving under suspension, driving without a license and failure to control after a car accident last week. With him in the backfield, Ohio State ranks 12th in the country in rushing. Elliott could be in for a big game against an Irish defense that ranks 63rd nationally against the run and has allowed opposing rushers to average more than 4.2 yards per carry eight times this year.
Although quarterback J.T. Barrett has been solid of late, the Buckeyes rank 103rd in passing offense and won’t look to get into an aerial showdown. Barrett has rushed for 522 yards in his last six games and, alongside Elliott, gives Ohio State one of the more dangerous rushing combos in football.
When Notre Dame Has the Ball
The Fighting Irish have overcome a freakish number of injuries to key offensive players this year, but have remained solid thanks in large part to one of the nation’s best offensive lines. Notre Dame’s top two running backs (C.J. Prosise and Josh Adams) both averaged over 6.5 yards per carry. As a result, it has opened up the passing game and the Irish are one of America’s most balanced teams, averaging 256 passing yards and 215 rushing yards per game. That line, however, will face their toughest test to date against a Buckeye front seven that includes All-American defensive end Joey Bosa and linebacker Darron Lee.
Keys to the Game
Both teams boast strong running games. But while Ohio State will pound the ball for 60 minutes, Notre Dame uses the run to set up the deep play action pass. So, if the Fighting Irish can protect quarterback DeShone Kizer, a key matchup in this game will be Notre Dame’s top deep threat, receiver Will Fuller (20.5 yards per catch), against Ohio State’s All-American safety Vonn Bell.
There might be more future NFL players in this game than either of the playoff semifinals and, while both teams would obviously rather be in the championship hunt, this should be one of the more entertaining games of the bowl season.