Notre Dame (10-2) vs Ohio State (11-1)
When: Friday, January 1st 2016
Where: University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, AZ
Time: 1:00 ET | TV: ESPN
Two teams that were in the top four in nation most of the season will settle for a trip to the Fiesta Bowl as Notre Dame takes on Ohio State in what should be a terrific matchup. The Irish lost twice this year by a combined four points and both were on the road at Stanford 38-36 and at Clemson 24-22. Quarterback Malik Zaire went down in the second game of the season at Virginia, but sophomore DeShone Kizer stepped in to throw for 2,600 yards and 19 touchdowns while adding nine scores on the ground. Kizer’s best game of the year came at Pitt when he went 19-of-26 for 262 yards and five touchdowns. Notre Dame is ranked 30th in the nation scoring 34.8 points a game and 24th overall in yards (471.9/game). Running back C.J. Prosise, who missed a few games with an ankle injury, is expected to play in the Fiesta Bowl. He averages an amazing 6.6 yards a carry and has scored 12 total touchdowns (11 rushing, 1 receiving). Kizer’s top target is wide receiver William Fuller. The Junior averaged 20.4 yards a catch this season and caught 6 for 136 yards in the finale against Stanford. He has six 100+ yard receiving games this year. The defense is very solid allowing just 22.4 points a game, but are much better against the pass than the run. Something Ohio State might try to exploit.
The Buckeyes are the defending national champions, but a loss at home to Michigan State kept them out of this year’s Playoffs. Ohio State managed only 132 yards in that game against the Spartans and running back Ezekiel Elliott voiced his displeasure over the play-calling. He bounced back the next week against Michigan with 214 yards on 30 carries. Expect him to get another heavy workload against the Irish tonight. He ran for 1,672 yards and 19 touchdowns this season. Quarterback was an issue most of the year as coach Urban Meyer went back-and-forth with J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones before finally settling on Barrett. The sophomore Barrett completed 63.8% of his 116 pass attempts with 10 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. The defense is third in the nation allowing just 14 points a game and held their last six opponents to 17 points or less. They are one of the best in the country and stopping the pass allowing 176.2 yards a game through the air. Buckeyes co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash is set to leave to take the head coaching job at Rutgers after the bowl game, but former NFL and college head coach Greg Schiano was brought in to ease the transition.
I think Notre Dame will be more motivated in this one. They played a tougher schedule and the Buckeyes have too many players that are already looking ahead to the NFL including Elliott. I’ll take this Irish team getting six points against anyone, but Alabama.
Pick: Notre Dame +6