Notre Dame will look to win its first major bowl game since 1994 when they play Oklahoma State in the Fiesta Bowl on New Year’s Day.
The Irish are 6-14 in bowl games, including 0-9 in major bowl games, since they defeated Texas A&M 24-21 in the 1994 Cotton Bowl. That stretch includes four losses in Fiesta Bowl games to Colorado (1995), Oregon State (2001), and Ohio State (2006 and 2016).
Notre Dame will be trying to end its drought with a new head coach in Marcus Freeman, who was elevated from defensive coordinator after Brian Kelly left for the heading coach job at LSU. Freeman, a first-time head coach, will lean on defensive line coach Mike Elston to call the defense. Elston’s unit will be without All-American safety Kyle Hamilton, the top-ranked safety for the upcoming NFL Draft, who declared early for the draft. This isn’t new for the Irish as Hamilton missed Notre Dame’s final five regular-season games with an injury.
The Irish will have their hands full against Oklahoma State’s defense, which will also have a new play-caller after Jim Knowles left for the same position at Ohio State. The Cowboys rank fourth nationally in years per play allowed at 4.4 and seventh in scoring defense (16.8).
Notre Dame’s offense has struggled this season to protect its quarterbacks and they’ll face a bigger challenge with two key players out. Running back Kyren Williams, who was a stout blocker in pass protection, won’t play after he also declared for the draft. The Irish also will be without right tackle Josh Lugg, who suffered a meniscus tear in his left knee, which means freshman Blake Fisher will start for the first time since his meniscus tear in Notre Dame’s season opener.
Freeman will look across the field to see an experienced coach in Mike Gundy, who is still a man but now 54. The former Cowboys quarterback is 10-5 in bowl games, including wins in four of the past five years. Gundy’s record in bowl games includes a split in major bowl games: 41-38 win over Stanford in the 2012 Fiesta Bowl and 48-20 loss to Ole Miss in the 2016 Sugar Bowl.
The Cowboys enter the game after a gut-wrenching 21-16 loss to Baylor in the Big 12 Championship Game. The loss, which was decided on a goal-line stand, ended Oklahoma State’s hopes of making the College Football Playoff for the first time in program history.
Oklahoma State’s defense is led by linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez and safety Kolby Harvell-Peel, who were to the Associated Press All-America Team. Rodriguez led the Big 12 in tackles and ranked among the top 25 FBS players in tackles, solo tackles, forced fumbles, and fumbles recovered. Harvell-Peel has three interceptions and 33 total passes defended.
The Cowboys’ offense is led by Spencer Sanders, who has accounted for 24 total scores. Sanders’ top target is wide receiver Tay Martin, who leads the team in receptions (70), receiving yards (942), and receiving touchdowns (seven). Running back Jaylen Warren is the Cowboys’ main rushing threat with 1,134 rushing yards and 11 scores.
Spread: -2 ND
How to Watch
What: No. 5 Notre Dame vs. No. 9 Oklahoma State
When: Noon CT, New Year’s Day
Where: State Farm Stadium; Glendale, AZ
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