No. 5 Notre Dame and No. 9 Oklahoma State meet on Saturday for a showdown in the Fiesta Bowl, as we get a New Year’s Day gift featuring one of best matchups of the college football season. The Fighting Irish were the first team outside the College Football Playoff in the selection committee’s final rankings, while Oklahoma State dropped to ninth after losing a close game to Baylor in the Big 12 Championship Game.
This will be the first game for new Notre Dame coach Marcus Freeman, who was promoted from defensive coordinator to replace Brian Kelly after he left for LSU. Freeman’s promotion has included some continuity of the coaching staff, so while Notre Dame won’t have Kelly on the sidelines, the expectations are we will still see a top-five caliber program on the field in the bowl game.
Oklahoma State is back in the New Year’s Six for the first time since 2015 while Notre Dame is coming off two CFP appearances in the last four years. The Cowboys have been good in bowl games under Mike Gundy, going 10-5 across a 15 straight bowl appearances heading into the Fiesta Bowl. It’s a top-10 showdown with plenty of intrigue, so let’s dig into the things to know for the Fiesta Bowl.
Notre Dame vs. Oklahoma State: Need to know
Notre Dame offense improved over course of the season: The Fighting Irish finished the year with seven straight wins, much of it thanks to the changes made on the offensive side of the ball. Offensive coordinator Tommy Rees will remain in that position on Freeman’s staff, and the Fighting Irish are hoping those improvements show against a very good Oklahoma State defense. Notre Dame’s scoring average jumped 10 points from October to November, and it finished as a top-20 scoring offense averaging 35.3 points per game.
Oklahoma State defense among best in the country: Entering the bowl season, Oklahoma State led the nation in sacks and tackles for loss while also ranking in the top five nationally in total defense (No. 3), rushing defense (No. 5) and third-down defense (No. 2). The Cowboys defense was so good that defensive coordinator Jim Knowles got the attention of Ryan Day and was hired away to take the same position at Ohio State.
Marcus Freeman’s defense causes havoc for opposing quarterbacks: Before taking over in his new role as head coach, Marcus Freeman led a defense that had notable success throughout the year. Notre Dame ranked in the top 10 nationally in scoring defense (18.2 points per game) and was particularly strong when it came to rushing the passer and forcing interceptions. The Fighting Irish totaled 40 sacks on the season, good for 8th nationally, with 10 of those coming from Isaiah Foskey, who is currently tied for fourth all-time in single-season program history. When quarterbacks could get the pass off, Notre Dame would make them pay for mistakes with 15 interceptions, a number that tied for 10th nationally.
How to watch Fiesta Bowl live
Game: Fiesta Bowl
Date: Saturday, Jan. 1 | Time: 1 p.m. ET
Location: State Farm Stadium — Glendale, Arizona
TV: ESPN | Live stream: fuboTV (Try for free)
Fiesta Bowl prediction, picks
Featured Game | Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. Oklahoma State Cowboys
Gundy has been a great bowl coach, but I think there is a real juice around Freeman’s promotion, and Notre Dame will use this game as a showcase opportunity for the program’s future. Plus, with defensive coordinator Jim Knowles off to the same position at Ohio State, there is some shake up on the Cowboys staff that should impact your play on the game. Prediction: Notre Dame (-2.5)
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