Staff Picks: Fiesta Bowl

Irish Illustrated’s staff gives its predictions for Friday afternoon’s Fiesta Bowl battle against Ohio State.

With Tim Prister’s weekly game preview already posted, the rest of the Irish Illustrated staff offers a few thoughts on Friday’s Fiesta Bowl matchup with No. 7 Ohio State.

Pete Sampson
This feels like last year’s Music City Bowl just with a lot more NFL talent on the field. Notre Dame should be able to run with Ohio State on the edge, even if the Buckeyes are the more athletic squad. Where the Irish must establish an advantage is on both lines, with the Buckeyes hurting in the middle despite Joey Bosa on the edge. Look for Brian Kelly to rise to the occasion against Urban Meyer, playing keep away from Ohio State’s power running game and deep shot passing game.

The Irish pull the upset to finish with Notre Dame’s first 11-win season in 22 years. Don’t be surprised if C.J. Sanders proves to be an X-factor for the Irish.

Notre Dame 29 Ohio State 27
2015 Prediction Record: 12-0


Tim O’Malley
At this point, it seems there are a few too many holes to plug.

Notre Dame’s staff and players should be lauded for their efforts in the wake of continual, should’ve-been-debilitating injuries in 2015. Instead they thrived, arguably finishing two plays short of a marquee Final Four contest on New Year’s Eve. The Irish defense will play the fastest offense it has faced without the aid of their two fastest defensive backs.

And though noting speed deficiencies at two positions might be oversimplifying what will be a 135- to 145-snap contest, it’s likewise true that one or two plays generally make the difference, and without enough back-end speed, those 1-2 plays are more likely to be long touchdowns by the Buckeyes. Exacerbating the situation is an Ohio State defense capable of slowing, though not stopping the best offense of the Brian Kelly era.

Ohio State 38 Notre Dame 30
2015 Prediction Record: 10-2


Jack Freeman
If this were a regular season match-up between Ohio State and Notre Dame with a slot in the playoffs on the line I’d have to take Ohio State. On paper Ohio State is one of the top two teams in the country. That being said, we all know what happens to a team that feels they are in a bowl game they feel they shouldn’t be in. For Ohio State it’s the perfect storm playing in a bowl game they feel they shouldn’t be in with a roster full of players with NFL aspirations.

On the other side is team 127 who has bought into the team concept to the degree they don’t want names on the back of their jersey’s. Throughout the season the Irish have shown themselves to be a tough, focused and resilient team. They’ll need to dig deep one final time to overcome the loss of Max Redfield.

Notre Dame 34 Ohio State 27
2015 Prediction Record: 10-2


Anna Hickey
I have yet to see the over/under reach 60 anywhere, and I’m not sure why. Both squads have the luxury of a balanced attack. Notre Dame expects to have running back C.J. Prosise back and healthy, and Will Fuller will be the best wide out Ohio State has faced to date this season.

Ohio State will rely on the legs of Ezekiel Elliott in the read-option, but with a make-shift Irish secondary, the passing game is just as appealing for the Buckeyes’ offense. Bottom line: Notre Dame must defend better than it has all season against the big play, which won’t be an easy task. After all, Jaylon Smith is but one person. 

Ohio State 35 Notre Dame 30
2015 Prediction Record: 11-1


Jake Brown
Neither team will be short on motivation, which should make for a good game. But what Notre Dame will lack is enough bodies on defense to come up with consistent stops. All those injuries and an untimely suspension are no good against a physical, explosive Buckeyes offense.

Ohio State 44 Notre Dame 31
2015 Prediction Record: 12-0


Steve Hare
Ohio State’s defense has been strong all season. The same can’t be said for the Buckeyes’ offense. If Notre Dame can score 30+ on the Buckeyes and steal a page out of Michigan State’s defensive game plan, the Irish should be able to leave Arizona with a Fiesta Bowl win. That means bottling up the dangerous Ezekiel Elliott—on the field and on four wheels—and forcing the inconsistent OSU quarterbacks to win the game through the air.

Even Notre Dame’s depleted secondary should fare well enough in the passing game to keep the Buckeyes on the short end of the score. It all hinges on the ND offense scoring touchdowns instead of field goals.

Notre Dame 35 Ohio State 31
2015 Prediction Record: 10-2


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