By Kelly Reed
#9 Oklahoma State Cowboys vs #5 Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Saturday – January 1 – 12:00 p.m.
State Farm Stadium – Glendale, AZ
Records before the Game
#9 Oklahoma State Cowboys (11-2)
#5 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (11-1)
1/2 a yard… 1/2 a yard is all that separated the Oklahoma State Cowboys from making the College Football Playoff and winning the Big 12 Championship. That didn’t happen for the Cowboys and now here they are taking on Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl. This makes the 16th-straight bowl game for Head Coach Mike Gundy. Notre Dame is used to the big stage and even though they lost head Coach Brian Kelly to LSU, they usher in a new era with Head Coach Marcus Freeman. Let’s take a look at how these two teams match up for their bowl game.
Oklahoma State Cowboys
The Pokes are familiar with playing in bowl games and they are used to playing blue chip schools (Texas and Oklahoma) on a regular basis so Notre Dame and the Fiesta Bowl are in a sense, old hat for this team. The offense is led by Spencer Sanders who is best when he isn’t under too much pressure and managing the offense. In the air, Sander has put up pedestrian numbers this season with 2,468 yards and 16 TDs. It’s his 12 interceptions that make Cowboys fans grimace from time to time. Sanders can pick up some yards with his legs when needed as evidenced by his 6 TDs and 543 rushing yards. Typically the rushing duties are handled by RB Jaylen Warren. He has 1,1,34 yards to go with 11 TDs this season. WR Tay Martin is the speedster on the outside reeling in deep throws by Sanders. If Spencer can avoid the turnover bug then this game could be a really close one. The Cowboys defense is excellent and will be able to keep Irish QB Jack Coan in check.
Notre Dame Fighting Irish
As mentioned at the start of this article, Notre Dame is going through a coaching change. The talking heads of the sports world think that this change in leadership won’t really hinder the Irish. I disagree. Every head coach wants to put their own stamp on their program, even if it’s an internal promotion. Coach Freeman will do things differently than what the Irish are used to. How this will affect the team will be on display on New Year’s Day. QB Jack Coan has a decent o-line protecting him and that’s afforded him 2,641 passing yards this season along with 20 TDs. Serviceable numbers that have kept the Irish in all but one game (Cincinnati) this season. He’ll target WR Kevin Austin Jr. when needed along with the other receivers for the downfield passing attack. RB Kyren Williams has opted out of this game and that means another back will need to pick up the slack. The Irish have plenty of horses to go with and it could be a committee approach. The Irish have a stout defense as well, however they’ll be without safety Kyle Hamilton. If Spencer and the Cowboys can exploit the secondary it could be a long day for the Fighting Irish.
Those who set up the betting lines have this game as an even match. ESPN has given Notre Dame a slight edge at 50.6% chance of winning. The over/under for this one is at 45.5 which seems a little high given the strength of these defenses. I believe that the game will be close through all four quarters with Spencer Sanders coming up with some heroics of his own to win the game and take home an MVP trophy as well.
Oklahoma State Cowboys – 24
Notre Dame Fighting Irish – 13