Notre Dame missed the College Football Playoff by two snaps.
In the Fiesta Bowl it will face a program that believes it was nearly just as close.
No. 8 Notre Dame (10-2) will face No. 7 Ohio State (11-1) on Jan. 1 in Glendale, Ariz. (1 p.m.), where it will get a shot to win the program’s first major bowl game in 21 years. That six-game losing streak includes a 34-20 loss to Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl 10 years ago in Charlie Weis’ debut season.
The Irish are 2-3 all-time against the Buckeyes and have lost three straight.
The Irish have managed to alter their bowl history under Brian Kelly, who’s won three bowl games with Notre Dame including last season’s upset of LSU in the Music City Bowl. But Kelly has been part of Notre Dame’s big bowl game losing streak too, falling to Alabama in the BCS National Championship Game three years ago.
The streak began after Notre Dame’s win over Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl following the 1993 season. Since then the Irish have fallen in the Fiesta three times (Ohio State, Oregon State and Colorado), the Sugar once (LSU) and the Orange Bowl once (Florida State). Alabama rounds out that sextet.
The connections between Notre Dame and Ohio State run deep, much more than former assistant Urban Meyer turned Irish nemesis. Meyer hired away Tony Alford, Tim Hinton and Ed Warinner from Kelly in the past four years, with Alford the most recent departure.
The older brother of Jaylon Smith played for Meyer at Ohio State, but Rod Smith was dismissed from the program last October. Meyer also coached Jeff Heuerman in Columbus, the younger brother of former Irish tight end Mike Heuerman. That doesn’t even get to the recruiting battles waged between Notre Dame and Ohio State since Meyer arrived there.
So while the Fiesta Bowl didn’t fall within the College Football Playoff this year, and Notre Dame and Ohio State came up just a few plays short, this matchup has virtually everything a New Year’s Six bowl game could want.
Notre Dame couldn’t ask for much more than that.