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tBBC Fiesta Bowl: Ohio State vs Notre Dame Full Preview and Prediction

Michael Smith

Fiesta Bowl: Ohio State vs Notre Dame Full Preview and Prediction
Michael Smith
via our good friends at Buckeye Battle Cry
Visit their fantastic blog and read the full article (and so much more) here


(Image courtesy FiestaBowl.org)

Hello one and all and welcome as I preview the Fiesta Bowl. This year it’ll be the Ohio State Buckeyes taking on the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame in a battle of two of the most storied programs in College Football history.

How both teams got to the Fiesta Bowl couldn’t have been more different.

Ohio State was preseason #1 and defending National Champions. Everyone had Ohio State making it back to the College Football Playoffs this year. However, after being upset at home by Michigan State, the Buckeyes were not able to make it back to defend their title.

Meanwhile, Notre Dame came into this season with some high expectations as well. However, due to a series of injuries to key players on their team few expected the Fighting Irish to make it to a big bowl game. Notre Dame ended up only losing 2 games (#1 Clemson and Pac-12 Champion Stanford) by just 2 points each and want to show everyone they are still elite.

Which begs the question, which team is more excited to be in Glendale, Arizona? More on that question later.

Ohio State Defense vs Notre Dame Offense

Notre Dame runs a balanced offense. They don’t pass more than they run and vice versa. Head Coach Brian Kelly runs what people call a pro style offense. Notre Dame has passed for 3,080 yards on the year and rushed for 2,578. Can’t get more balanced than that.

They are led by sophomore QB DeShone Kizer, who had to take over the QB job back when the original starting QB Malik Zaire went down with a season ending injury in week 2 vs Virginia. Kizer has done a great job this year, passing for 2600 yards and 19 TDs. He is also a mobile QB, having rushed for 499 yards and 9 TDs. Ohio State fans might see him as a J.T. Barrett type QB, however, Kizer is much bigger at 6 foot 4 inches tall and 230lbs. Kizer’s main target is Junior WR Will Fuller who is by far the Fighting Irish’s #1 WR. He led the team in receptions (56), yards (1145), and TDs (13). The next closest WR for the Irish had just 3 TD receptions.

Notre Dame also lost their starting running back early in the season due to injury in Tarean Folston. He came into the season as the starting RB, but was lost in Notre Dame’s opening game with a knee injury. Since then the Fighting Irish have used 2 RBs as their primary carriers, Senior RB C.J. Prosise, and Freshman RB Josh Adams have both more than made up for the loss of Folston. The 2 have combined to rush for nearly 1600 yards and 16 TDs on the season. Prosise did miss the last 2 Notre Dame games due to injury but is expected to play against Ohio State. Both Prosise and Adams have TD runs this year of 90+ yards. Kizer has a 79 yard TD run to his credit as well.

If there is a weakness on the Notre Dame offense, its their offensive line. Yes, you guessed it, they have also been hit by the injury bug. The Irish OL has done a good job at rush blocking, but they give up a lot of sacks. Notre Dame QBs this year have been sacked a total of 22 times. Even with DT Adolphus Washington suspended for the Fiesta Bowl, Joey Bosa and company should get a lot pressure on Kizer.

However, Notre Dame poses a big threat to the Ohio State defense, a running QB. Kizer is very mobile and has rushed for nearly 500 yards as I mentioned earlier. We all have seen this year what mobile QBs have done to Ohio State. You had Indiana’s backup QB run for a 79 yard touchdown, Maryland’s back up QB rush for more yards in the game than Ohio State did as a team. Now Ohio State faces the most mobile and athletic QB they’ve probably faced all season. Can the Ohio State DL and LBs contain Kizer and keep him from making big plays with his legs. Even with his mobility, he was sacked 19 times himself this year, so you can get pressure on him and take him down.

Ohio State’s secondary has one mission and that is stop Will Fuller. I fully expect to see Eli Apple on Fuller the entire game and wouldn’t be shocked to see a double team from time to time as well. If Ohio State can contain Fuller, they can make Notre Dame one dimensional on offense. I fully expect the Buckeye LBs, Lee, Perry, and McMillan to have a lot of tackles in this game.

Ohio State Offense vs Notre Dame Defense

On the other side of the ball, we all know what Ohio State wants to do. The offense will be full go with J.T. Barrett at QB, Zeke Eilliott at RB, and Thomas, Miller, and Samuel as the WRs. Ohio State ran the ball down ttun’s throat in their last game winning 42-13 and rushing for 369 yards.

Notre Dame runs a traditional defense. They rank 38th in total defense this year (compared to Ohio State being ranked 10th). They give up on average 362 yards a game and 22.4 points a game. They have given up more than 30 points 3 times this year and gave up 27 points 2 other times as well.

Here is the good news for Ohio State fans. Notre Dame is not that great against the run. Notre Dame is in the top 30 in passing defense giving up 196 yards a game. However, they give up 166 yards a game rushing on the ground. Notre Dame has faced really only 1 big time rushing team and RB all season. That was Stanford. Now, to the Irish credit, they held Christian McCaffrey to just 94 yards on 27 carries with no TDs. The problem for the Irish in that game, is that they were so concerned with stopping the run, Stanford’s QB Kevin Hogan had 269 yards passing and 4 TDs. If Notre Dame loads the box to stop Elliott, expect Barrett to start throwing.

Now I will address the question the asked earlier, which team is more excited to be here. That is the $64,000 question and 500lb pink gorilla in the room.

On paper, Ohio State should beat Notre Dame. In fact, most experts think Ohio State should blow out Notre Dame. That being said, we all know what happens to teams in the Buckeyes’ shoes when they are in a bowl game they feel they shouldn’t be in.

In recent history the team who comes into the bowl game who feels their season was a disappointment, feeling they should be playing for a lot more, and have a roster full of players who will be playing on Sundays the following year, their record isn’t great, in fact, its terrible.

Lets face it, we all thought Ohio State would be in the playoffs, so did they. Ohio State has a great many of players who will be heading to the NFL right after the game, win, lose, or draw. Do those players go out and give it their all to win a bowl game they maybe don’t want to be in? Do they dive for the ball or go for the big play risking injury just a couple of months before the draft? These are real questions.

There are some who think Ohio State will come out with a chip on their shoulder and want to prove they are still the best team in the country regardless of what bowl they are in. If they do that, they will win, no question. If they play like a team who doesn’t want to be there and looking forward to the NFL draft, they will lose, no question.

In my heart I think they play hard and win, in my head I’m much more nervous. I’m going with my heart on this one.


Till the next time, chill!

The post Fiesta Bowl: Ohio State vs Notre Dame Full Preview and Prediction appeared first on The Buckeye Battle Cry: Ohio State News and Commentary.

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