Notre Dame might not have made the 2015 College Football Playoffs, but they will still be playing in one of the most highly anticipated post season games of the year after being slated against Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl on January 1 at 1:00 PM ET.
Notre Dame (10-2) and Ohio State (11-1) both spent much of the college football season firmly in the top 4 of the CFP Rankings but a late season loss to Michigan knocked the Buckeyes out of the mix while the Irish clung to life for another week before the season finale loss to Stanford eliminated them from contention.
Ohio State, the defending national champion, has had an unremarkable season as the defending champ up until their season finale romp of Michigan. Prior to that contest Ohio State had not been overly impressive even as they built a 10-0 record before losing to Michigan State a few weeks ago. That loss knocked Ohio State out of the mix because of their lack of quality wins and propelled the Spartans into the Big 10 Championship and eventually the College Football Playoffs after they took care of Iowa last night.
Notre Dame meanwhile held the #4 spot in the playoffs for a few weeks before falling out of the 4 following an impressive performance against Boston College in Fenway Park in the Shamrock Series before tumbling to #8 in the CFP Rankings after the loss to Stanford. The conference championship weekend didn’t do anything to improve Notre Dame rankings as they held steady at #8.
Notre Dame and Ohio State have not met since 2005 when the Buckeyes won a rather one-sided but closer than it appeared contest in the same Fiesta Bowl. Brady Quinn, Jeff Samardzija, and Darius Walker tried to keep the Irish in the contest, but the Notre Dame defense had no answer for Troy Smith and the Buckeye offense – a situation that sounds eerily familiar with Notre Dame coming into the game with a high powered offense and a lot of questions on the defensive side of the ball.
This year sophomore Deshone Kizer will lead the high powered Notre Dame offense into Tempe to take on the 7th ranked Buckeyes coached by Urban Meyer – a coach with whom there is no love loss between Notre Dame fans after Urban spurred the Irish over a decade ago to coach Florida.
Meyer’s Buckeyes have had quarterback issues this year as they have bounced back and forth between Cardalle Jones and JT Barrett. Ohio State faced some off the field drama as well following their loss to Michigan State when star running back Ezekiel Elliot threw the Ohio State coaching staff under the bus for their playcalling after he didn’t receive many carries in the lone Buckeye loss of the season.
Notre Dame and Ohio State might have both had playoff aspirations fall short, but the two will be playing in perhaps the marquee non-playoff bowl matchup. Two traditional powers. Two fan bases that travel well. Two teams featuring elite college coaches. This is the type of game that will sell itself even though both fan bases are rightfully likely disappointed in missing the playoffs.
We will have plenty more on this matchup and how well the Irish do or don’t match up with the Buckeyes and what they will need to do in order to end the season on a high note.