Once major contenders for the College Football playoff, the No. 7 Ohio State Buckeyes (11-1) and No. 8 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (10-2) try to end their seasons on a high note in New Years Day’s Fiesta Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.
Dating back to last season’s title run, the Buckeyes and head coach Urban Meyer won 23 straight before falling to Big Ten rival Michigan State in the second-to-last weekend of the regular season and lost control of their place in the CFP.
However, Ohio State was able to close out the regular season with a 42-13 beat down of hated rival to the north Michigan behind running back Ezekiel Elliott’s 214 rushing yards and two touchdowns.
Elliott, as well as star defensive end Joey Bosa, will play their final games in a Buckeyes uniform as Meyer announced Thursday that both intend to enter next year’s NFL Draft.
One of a handful of early-season favorites for the Heisman Trophy, the junior Elliott gathered 1,672 yards and 19 touchdowns for Ohio State’s 12th ranked rushing attack and next meets a Fighting Irish frontline that allowed 166.5 rushing yards per game this season.
The All-American Bosa padded his lofty career stats with 5.0 sacks over 11 games this season, upping his total to 26.0 during his time in Columbus. He stands to have a big game against a Notre Dame offensive line that let up 22 sacks all year.
With such a two-headed monster manning both sides of the ball, the Buckeyes are 6.5-point favorites to increase their 3-2 all-time mark against the Irish but won’t Brian Kelly’s squad lightly.
Taking over after Everett Golson’s transfer and Malik Zaire broke his leg, sophomore quarterback DeShone Kizer powered the Notre Dame offense with 2,600 yards and 19 touchdown passes to nine interceptions while taking down ranked Georgia Tech and Temple. But the underclassmen has his hands full versus a Buckeyes secondary that surrendered a mere 176.1 passing yards a game.
That means Kizer, who also charged ahead for 499 rushing yards and nine more scores, will feed running backs C.J. Prosise and Josh Adams. The senior Prosise gained a career-best 1,032 yards and 11 touchdowns, and he returns after missing Notre Dame’s season finale loss at Stanford.
Betting Odds: Ohio State -6.5
Over/Under: 57 points
Kickoff: Friday, 1 p.m.
TV Channel: ESPN
Live Stream: Watch ESPN