|Matchup Preview | Jan. 1 | University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz. | 1 p.m., ESPN|
|Ohio State Buckeyes (11-1, 7-1)|| Notre Dame Fighting Irish (10-2)|
Five Fast Facts About Notre Dame
1. Notre Dame starting defensive backs Max Redfield, Keivarae Russell and Devin Butler will not play. Redfield, a safety, violated team rules and had 64 tackles and an interception on the season. Cornerback Butler suffered a broken foot this week and in 12 games (one start) had 11 tackles. He was slated to start for Russell, who broke his tibia late in the season after making 60 tackles and two interceptions this year.
3. The Irish faced four teams this fall which claimed a conference divisional title in Clemson (ACC Atlantic), Stanford (Pac-12 North), Temple (American East) and USC (Pac-12 South). Four of its opponents won 10 games, tied for most among Power 5 teams.
4. Notre Dame has 12 players from Ohio in OL Jimmy Byrne (Cleveland/St. Ignatius), DL Daniel Cage (Cincinnati/Winton Woods), DB Nick Coleman (Dayton/Kettering Alter), DB Shaun Crawford (Lakewood/St. Edward), WR Chris Finke (Kettering/Archbishop Alter), LB Jarrett Grace (Cincinnati/Colerain), TE Chase Hounshell (Kirtland/Mentor Lake Catholic), QB DeShone Kizer (Toledo/Central Catholic), DL Jacob Matuska (Columbus/Bishop Hartley), TE Ben Suttman (Dayton/Kettering Alter), DL Elijah Taylor (Cincinnati/Moeller) and QB Malik Zaire (Kettering/Alter).
5. C.J. Sanders, son of former Ohio State flanker Chris Sanders and No. 9 in the program, is just the third player in Notre Dame history to return both a kickoff and a punt for a TD in the same season.
Five Fast Facts About The Fiesta Bowl
1. The Irish stand at 1-3 in bowl games played in Arizona, including a 1-2 mark in the Fiesta Bowl, beating West Virginia in the 1989 game to claim the 1988 consensus national championship, but losing to Colorado in the 1995 game and Ohio State in the 2006 game. All three were played at Sun Devil Stadium. Notre Dame also fell to Oregon State, 38-21, in the 2004 Insight Bowl at BankOne Ballpark (now Chase Field).
2. This will be Notre Dame's first-ever game in the current stadium, the home of the Arizona Cardinals.
3. Notre Dame's roster features just one native of Arizona in starting CB Cole Luke (Chandler / Hamilton). Ohio State does not have an Arizona native on its roster; its most famous player from there is 1997 Rose Bowl-winning QB Joe Germaine.
4. The game matches up some of the top NFL draft prospects for the upcoming selection show. Scout's rankings include Joey Bosa as the projected No. 1 overall draft pick, with Notre Dame's Ronnie Stanley third and Jaylon Smith rated seventh.
5. Though Ohio State is known for having success in the desert having won the 2003, 2004 and 2006 Fiesta Bowls, the Buckeyes have not won in Arizona in a decade. That includes losses to Florida in the 2006 BCS National Championship Game as well as the Fiesta Bowl after the 2008 season vs. Texas.
OHIO STATE RUSH OFFENSE vs. NOTRE DAME RUSH DEFENSE
The Irish have some talented players in their front seven, Smith in particular, but they have been run upon at times this season. While the return of nose tackle Jarron Jones from injury could give them a boost, containing a Buckeye ground game that overpowered Michigan its last time out could prove to be a challenge that is too great. Having faced two true triple-option teams during the regular season, the Fighting Irish have experimented with a variety of lineups so it could be interesting to see how much they try to customize a scheme for the Buckeyes. EDGE: OHIO STATE
NOTRE DAME RUSH OFFENSE vs. OHIO STATE RUSH DEFENSE
The Fighting Irish have a running game that mirrors Ohio State's in many ways. Notre Dame also has a talented, veteran offensive line that makes room for big-play backs C.J. Prosise and Josh Adams. Ohio State was generally strong against the run but gave up big days on the ground to a scrambling quarterback from Maryland and a talented running back from Penn State, so this coudl be a key matchup that might go either way. Missing senior tackles Adolphus Washington and Tommy Schutt certainly won't help the Buckeyes. EDGE: EVEN
OHIO STATE PASS OFFENSE vs. NOTRE DAME PASS DEFENSE
The Buckeyes' inability to consistently move the ball through the air was one of the great mysteries of the 2015 season. While they do not have the same personnel to utilize as last season, there seemed to be times the coaching staff was still not willing to give the receivers or the quarterback even a chance to see what they could do. Notre Dame has not been strong against the pass, and the Fighting Irish will be playing without key members of the secondary. EDGE: EVEN
NOTRE DAME PASS OFFENSE vs. OHIO STATE PASS DEFENSE
This figures to be the best passing game has seen in a while. DeShone Kizer is a big, strong pocket quarterback who can also run the ball when he gets the chance. He has a strong arm and generally plays with poise, but he did have a few lapses with turnovers in the red zone later in the season. He also benefits from a deep, talented receiving corps that features deep threat Will Fuller (7 catches of at least 45 yards). Ohio State has been among the best teams in the country against the pass, though, and is talented across the board. This is a battle of two strengths. EDGE: EVEN
Justin Yoon has been a consistent placekicker for the Fighting Irish, making 12 straight field goals, who have also gotten returns for touchdowns in the punt and kickoff areas. Ohio State can claim the advantage at punter, and the Buckeye coverage teams have been strong all season. They are still waiting to bust that big one of their own, though. EDGE: NOTRE DAME
Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said his team has played enough big games against big-name opponents that there should not be any special motivation to beat the Buckeyes, but we're skeptical. The last time they played on a big postseason stage, the Fighting Irish were obliterated by Alabama in the 2012 national title game, and though they played No. 1 Clemson tough on the road this season, they still came out with a loss. Questions about the Buckeyes' mind-set will dog them all the way up until game day after a season that did reach the height many expected, but they are coming off their best performance of the year. EDGE: NOTRE DAME
Urban Meyer's teams typically excel with lots of time to prepare, but this is a tricky one to read. If the Buckeyes show up motivated they should be able to overwhelm the Fighting Irish, who have better talent than they did the past few years but have still had their roster depleted at multiple positions by injuries. This game is one fans always enjoy seeing, so both teams should be ready to go. With the burden of expectations gone, we think Ohio State will be able to do enough to win. OHIO STATE 33-28
The staff pick is an average of predictions by staffers Ryan Ginn, James Grega, Tim Moody, Jeff Svoboda and Blake Williams. Matchup previews by Marcus Hartman.