Ohio State players and coaches probably wish their trip to Phoenix would have come in mid-January for the CFP National Championship, but a matchup against Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl certainly isn’t a worst-case scenario for the Buckeyes.
The Buckeyes arrived in Arizona on Dec. 27 for their Jan. 1 matchup against the Fighting Irish. They stepped off the plane to greetings from Buckeye fans, local musicians and Spirit, the Fiesta Bowl’s costumed anthropomorphic sun. Speaking from the tarmac of Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, OSU head coach Urban Meyer said the show put on by bowl organizers made it one of the most desirable trips in the country.
“This is my third time here as a head coach and you’re not allowed to politically have favorites but this is one of my favorite bowl games and more importantly it’s Shelley’s – it’s one of her favorite bowl games because of the Valley of the Sun and the way we’re treated out here by the Fiesta Bowl Committee,” he said.
The No. 7 Buckeyes have a tough matchup in the form of No. 8 Notre Dame, but Meyer believes his players will answer the bell when it comes to shaking off the disappointment of finishing outside the coveted four playoff spots. He cited OSU’s 42-13 win against Michigan as evidence that the loss to Michigan State hadn’t lingered.
“I think those guys answered that the following week against our rivals,” Meyer said.
At the same time, the Buckeyes hadn’t yet been eliminated from the playoff race when they ripped apart the Wolverines. Their playoff hopes, however small, still flickered before being extinguished the next day. Now, Ohio State will have to show it can get up for a game that has no national title implications.
A date with the Fighting Irish in the Valley of the Sun won’t hurt.
“When you get picked for this type of bowl game, one of the top bowl games in the country, against (Notre Dame), I have a lot of confidence we’ll play very hard,” Meyer said.