SQ Fiesta Bowl Preview
Ten years ago, The Ohio State Buckeyes and the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame met in Tempe, Arizona for the 2005 Fiesta Bowl. Fast forward 10 years to present day, and here we are. Ohio State and Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl again. The game is slated to kickoff at 1pm eastern time, and is one of the more anticipated games of the day.
Major Story Lines
Kelly wants to validate the Irish
In the 10 years since Ohio State and Notre Dame have last met, Notre Dame has only one appearance in a BCS/New Years Six bowl game. That game was the 2007 Sugar Bowl, in which they got trounced by the LSU Tigers. It's been mostly a bumpy ride for Irish fans since then, with the lone bright spot being a 12-1 season in 2012-13, resulting in an appearance in the BCS championship game. Of course, that game also ended in a rout, ND getting crushed 42-14.
Head Coach Brian Kelly has won eight games in each of his first six seasons with the team, yet still sees this game as a chance to validate his football program. "We need to play well, and we need to win the game to validate where we are as a football program," Kelly said. With a rich history of tradition, many feel Kelly is spot on with this, and you can bet the team will be fired up.
Can Meyer keep the Buckeyes Focused?
In a season in which Ohio State was the hands down favorite to win the CFP National Championship, the Buckeyes failed to even make the Playoff. As consolation, Ohio State will face off against a very formidable opponent in a classic bowl game. However, will the Buckeyes keep focused on the task at hand? This is not the most attractive game for the team; players, coaches, and fans included. The game kicks off at 11am local time, on the day after the two Playoff games.
Yes, the fiesta bowl is a good game to be in, but it's severely overshadowed by the Playoff, which Ohio State expected to be in. It could be very easy for them to give up, but there are a slew of seniors, such as Braxton Miller, who deserve to go out with a bang.
369: The number of rushing yards the Buckeyes put up in their last contest against a Top 10 ranked Michigan. Ohio State looked dominant on the ground in that game, and it did not look like they had any plans to slow down. Very, very rarely do teams who amass more than 350 yards on the ground lose a game. Notre Dame will have to really buckle down on the defensive side of the rock if they want to have a chance here.
1,145: Receiving yards accumulated by Irish junior WR Will Fuller. This guy has been killing secondaries all season, and has 13 touchdowns to boot. The Buckeyes secondary has been pretty good this year, but many have said its not in the same realm as the Buckeyes front seven. If Fuller goes off, it could be a long day for the Buckeyes.
0: The number of pass attempts that Ohio State senior HB/WR Braxton Miller has thrown this season. During the offseason, many expected Miller to be the Buckeyes' quarterback. He has been the Big Ten offensive player of the year twice, and we've seen him do just as much damage with his legs as his arm. But for many, a Miller pass this season is long overdue. Will we finally see it this year, in his last game for the Buckeyes?
Will Fuller: As mentioned before, he has over 1,100 receiving yards this year...that is no easy accomplishment. He averages more than a touchdown per game, and if Ohio State wants to win, they are going to have to keep him in check.
For Ohio State, the most important player on the field will be Ezekiel Elliott. Elliott, a Heisman candidate for much of the year, has amassed at least 100 yards in 11 of 12 games this season for the Buckeyes, and has been the most consistent player on their roster. In their sole loss, Zeke got the ball only 12 times. We all saw how that ended up, and it proved how valuable Elliott really is to this football team.
Why Notre Dame wins
Notre Dame wins if Ohio State's pass defense fails to contain Fuller and the Irish offense. Notre Dame has some wild talent, and if they can capitalize on some big plays, or a turnover or two, the game is theirs.
Why Ohio State wins
Ohio State wins if they take a lead and feed Elliot. "Feed Zeke" as many of their fans say. Winning the Fiesta Bowl is not winning the National Championship, but 12 wins and a Fiesta Bowl victory isn't a lost season.
Much like the last time these teams met, Ohio State will strike for some big touchdown plays. Long, exciting plays. We'll see plenty of offense, and while Notre Dame could definitely come out of here with a win, Ohio State has too many weapons not to control the tempo.
Ohio State wins 42-27.