2016 Battlefrog Fiesta Bowl
#8 Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs #7 Ohio State Buckeyes
Friday, January 1, 2016, 1:00 pm Eastern, TV: ESPN
University of Phoenix Stadium – Glendale, Arizona
Opening Line: Ohio State -6 1/2
Current Line: Ohio State -6
Opening Total: 54
Current Total: 57 1/2
Opening Money Line: Ohio State -260 / Notre Dame +225
Current Money Line: Ohio State -230 / Notre Dame +200
The 10-2 Notre Dame Fighting Irish and 11-1 Ohio State Buckeyes were a total of seven points away from being playoff teams. Not only that but all three losses between the two are to teams ranked ahead of them. Still, the Fighting Irish and Ohio State Buckeyes will have to settle for a showdown in the Fiesta Bowl against each other. These two blue blood programs have combined for 19 national titles.
Ohio State leads the series 3-2 against Notre Dame. Ohio State won the last meeting in the 2006 Fiesta Bowl 34-20. The Fighting Irish swept a home and home in 1935 and 1936, and the Buckeyes did the same thing in 1995 and 1996. The teams are scheduled to play a home and home in 2022 and 2023.
Notre Dame is coached by Brian Kelly. The Fighting Irish are 17-17 all-time in bowl games, including 1-2 in the Fiesta Bowl. Notre Dame has won 2 straight bowl games, including a 31-28 win over LSU in the Music City Bowl last year.
Ohio State is coached by Urban Meyer. The Buckeyes finished tied for first in the Big Ten East Division at 7-1 with Michigan State. The Spartans won the tiebreaker though by beating Ohio State. The Buckeyes are 21-24 all-time in bowl games, including 3-2 in the Fiesta Bowl. Last year, Ohio State won the inaugural College Football Playoff by beating Alabama in the Sugar Bowl and Oregon in the Championship game.
The Fighting Irish are coached by Brian Kelly. Notre Dame has road losses at #1 Clemson 24-22 and #6 Stanford 38-36 in the last game of the regular season. Notre Dame has home wins over Texas 38-3, Georgia Tech 30-22, Massachusetts 62-27, Navy 41-24, USC 41-31, and Wake Forest 28-7. The Fighting Irish also have road wins over Virginia 34-27, Temple 24-20 and Pittsburgh 42-30. Notre Dame beat Boston College 19-16 at Fenway Park in Boston. It was officially a home game for the Irish.
Notre Dame was a four point underdog against Stanford and the total was 57. The game was back and forth. Neither team led by more than 7 points at any time in the game. Stanford led 14-7 at the end of the first quarter and 21-20 at halftime. Notre Dame would take a 29-28 lead into the fourth. Stanford regained the lead at 35-29, but Notre Dame would take a 36-35 lead with 30 seconds left. The Cardinal drove down and kicked the game winning 45 yard field goal as time expired. Notre Dame had 533 total yards to 422 for Stanford. The Fighting Irish are 8-4 ATS and the total is 6-6 this season.
Ohio State has a loss at home to #3 Michigan State 17-14. The Buckeyes have home wins over Virginia Tech 42-24, Hawaii 38-0, Northern Illinois 20-13, Western Michigan 38-12, Maryland 49-28, Penn State 38-10, and Minnesota 28-14, plus road wins over Indiana 34-27, Rutgers 49-7, Illinois 28-3 and Michigan 42-13 in the last game of the regular season.
Ohio State was a 1.5 point favorite against Michigan and the total was 46.5. The Buckeyes led 14-10 at halftime, but would outscore the Wolverines 28-3 in the second half. It was the fourth straight year Ohio State had beaten their rivals. The Buckeyes are 5-7 ATS and the total is 3-9 this season.
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Notre Dame is outscoring teams 35-22 this season. Notre Dame is in the top 32 nationally in both categories. The Fighting Irish average 472 yards per game on offense including 256 passing and 216 rushing yards. The Fighting Irish are in the top 40 nationally in all three categories. On defense, Notre Dame is allowing 362 yards per game including 197 passing and 166 rushing yards. The Irish are #36 or better in total and pass defense. Notre Dame has forced 13 turnovers and has 18 of their own. The Fighting Irish average 47 penalty yards per game and opponents average 50. Notre Dame is 67/154 on third and fourth down conversions and opponents are 69/191. The Irish have forced 23 sacks and allowed 22 of their own. Notre Dame is 40/50 scoring in the red zone with 28 touchdowns and opponents are 26/34 with 23 touchdowns. The Fighting Irish have 2 punt returns for a touchdown and a pick six.
Quarterback DeShone Kizer has passed for 2,600 yard with 19 touchdowns and nine interceptions, along with 499 rushing yards on 119 carries with 9 touchdowns. Malik Zaire threw for 428 yards with 4 touchdowns, and rushed 19 times for 103 yards. He is out for the season with a broken ankle.
Running back C.J. Prosise has 156 carries for 1,032 yards and 11 touchdowns, along with 26 catches for 308 yards and a touchdown. He is probable with an ankle injury after missing the Stanford game. Josh Adams has 103 carries for 757 yards and 5 touchdowns, plus 7 catches for 42 yards and a touchdown. Running back Tarean Folston is out for the season with a torn ACL
Receiver Will Fuller has 56 catches for 1,145 yards and 13 touchdowns. Chris Brown has 44 catches for 562 yards and 3 touchdowns. Amir Carlisle has 30 catches for 341 yards and a touchdown. Torii Hunter, Jr. has 24 catches for 311 yards and 2 touchdowns. Alize Jones and Corey Robinson will also get some catches. Tight end Durham Smythe is out for the season with knee and shoulder injuries. He had a touchdown catch. Seven defensive players are on the injury report.
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Ohio State is outscoring teams 35-14 this season. The Buckeyes are #3 in points allowed and #28 in scoring nationally. Ohio State averages 429 yards per game on offense including 187 passing and 242 rushing yards. The Buckeyes are #12 in rushing and #102 in passing out of 128 teams. On defense, Ohio State allows 304 total yards per game including 176 passing and 127 rushing yards. The Buckeyes are #10 in both total and pass defense and #23 against the rush. Ohio State has forced 19 turnovers and has 17 of their own. The Buckeyes average 51 penalty yards per game and opponents average 43. Ohio State is 70/172 on third and fourth down conversions and opponents are 77/221. The Buckeyes have forced 34 sacks and have allowed 17 this season. Ohio State is 40/50 scoring in the red zone with 33 touchdowns and opponents are 22/28 with 16 touchdowns. The Buckeyes have four defensive touchdowns.
Ohio State has used two quarterbacks this season. Cardale Jones has completed 62.5% of his passes for 1,460 yards with 8 touchdowns and 5 interceptions, along with 64 carries for 193 yards with 2 touchdowns. J.T. Barrett has thrown for 781 yards with 10 touchdowns and 3 interceptions, along with 92 catches for 586 yards and 11 touchdowns. Barrett took over for an inconsistent Jones late in the season. Barrett will start the Fiesta Bowl.
Running back Ezekiel Elliot has 262 carries for 1,672 yards and 19 touchdowns, along with 26 catches for 176 yards. Receiver Michael Thomas has 49 catches for 709 yards and 8 touchdowns. Jalin Marshall has 31 catches for 448 yards with 5 touchdowns. Former quarterback Braxton Miller has 24 catches for 329 yards and 3 touchdowns, along with 40 carries for 234 yards and a touchdown. Curtis Samuel and Nick Vannett will also get some catches. Five defensive players are on the injury report.
Notre Dame is 7-1 ATS against teams with winning records, 7-3 in non-conference games, overall and on grass, 2-5 after a straight up loss, and 1-4-1 against Big Ten teams.
Ohio State is 4-0 ATS in neutral site games, 4-1 against independent teams, and after allowing more than 280 passing yards, 6-2 after allowing less than 100 rushing yards, 5-2 after scoring more than 40 points, in bowl games and in January, 36-15 on grass, 38-17 after gaining more than 450 total yards, 3-7 after a straight up win, and 1-5 after rushing for 200 yards or more.
Motivation could be an issue for both these teams after being disappointed about not making the playoffs. Kelly has done a masterful coaching job with Notre Dame as they have been ravaged by injuries to key players. Still, I think Ohio State has more talent and wins a close low scoring game.