Buckeye Breakdown: Looking at Ohio State's Fiesta Bowl Win

We're breaking down what we saw in Ohio State's 44-28 Fiesta Bowl win over Notre Dame.

Unit Breakdowns

Ohio State Run Offense: Ohio State stuck to what it did best all season. Inverted veer, counter trey run plays with Ezekiel Elliott and J.T. Barrett kept a depleted Notre Dame defense on edge all game. When Jaylon Smith went out with an injury, Ohio State smelled blood and took advantage. Looking ahead, the Buckeyes will be replacing three linemen and Elliott but at the very least have momentum going into next season. – James Grega

Ohio State Pass Offense: J.T. Barrett was certainly good enough to win, but I thought he was off target a little more often than he should have been. The junior quarterback completed 19 of 31 passes for 211 yards, one touchdown and one interception, which is a line I think the Buckeyes would take more often than not. The best thing Ohio State did from a passing standpoint was establish it early. Three of OSU’s first five plays were completed passes, and two of their three plays on the Buckeyes’ second drive were also completed passes, one of which was a 15-yard scoring reception by Michael Thomas.  – Ryan Ginn

Ohio State Run Defense: Already undermanned on the defensive line thanks to the suspension of Adolphus Washington and injury to Tommy Schutt, the Buckeyes were dealt a blow in the first quarter when Joey Bosa was ejected for targeting. Despite the loss of the standout, the Buckeyes were not able to pushed around up front and held Notre Dame to just 121 rushing yards on 32 carries, just a 3.8 yard average. While the fact that Notre Dame was trailing the entire game helped force the Irish to throw, the Ohio State defense did more than enough to limit the ground attack. – Blake Williams

Ohio State Pass Defense: Cornerback Eli Apple was a deserving selection for defensive MVP, but the rest of Ohio State’s pass defense – especially Gareon Conley – struggled against the Irish. Notre Dame quarterback DeShone Kizer finished the game with 22 completions on 37 attempts for 284 yards and two scores. Tyvis Powell made the day look better for the defensive backfield when he intercepted Kizer (after having one called back when Joey Bosa was flagged for targeting) but pass defense, and defense in general, didn’t exactly steal the show for Ohio State. It wasn’t a bad performance, but it might not have been good enough on a day when the offense wasn’t firing on all cylinders.  – Tim Moody

What We Learned

Ryan Ginn: I’m not ready to say Ohio State is the best team in the country – I saw the Cotton Bowl, after all – but it certainly seems like Ohio State was the best team in the Big Ten this season. What is unquestionable is that the Buckeyes’ loss to Michigan State and the team’s subsequent wins against a pair of top-10 opponents in Michigan and Notre Dame will vault this team very far up the program’s list of What If seasons. The Buckeyes are ultra talented and playing some of the best football in the country, but they lost at the wrong time and paid the price.

James Grega: Ed Warinner should have been in the press box all season. Ohio State's offense looked like a well oiled machine to start the game and finished strong to win the game. It will be tough for Warinner to stay in the box next season with a younger line coming back, but if OSU makes a splash hire Warinner staying in the box would greatly help this team.

Tim Moody: It turns out the 2015 Ohio State football team was very good. But that doesn’t mean the Buckeyes deserved more than the Fiesta Bowl berth they got. If Ohio State and Michigan State played again – with offensive coordinator Ed Warinner in the booth – there wouldn’t be many people picking the Spartans. But they don’t play again, meaning what if will be a common theme this offseason, but the Buckeyes still proved they were among the best teams around with their convincing win over Notre Dame. For now, that will have to be enough.

Blake Williams: Ohio State is one of the best teams in the country, even if it waited until the end of the season to play like it. Notre Dame is a team that nearly made the College Football Playoff, losing two games by a combined four points to Clemson and Stanford, and Ohio State pushed the Fighting Irish around. While Notre Dame battled back in the second half, the Buckeyes were never in danger of losing the game and looked elite throughout. Perhaps Ed Warinner should have been moved to the press box sooner as the Buckeyes once again executed his offense with tempo on the way to victory. Either way, it was clear to me that the Fiesta Bowl champions are one of the very best teams in the country.


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