Notre Dame was eliminated from playoff contention on Saturday when the Chaos Saturday we all were hoping for never materialized. Their consolation prize is not too bad, however, with a New Year’s Day matchup in the Fiesta Bowl against Oklahoma State (10-2). The Irish return to the Fiesta Bowl for the first time in six years to face the Cowboys for the first time in program history.
Notre Dame finished the regular season ranked 5th, just outside the playoffs while Oklahoma State finished 9th after coming up inches short in the Big12 Championship. Marcus Freeman will get his head coaching debut in a New Year’s 6 Bowl game with an opportunity to do what Brian Kelly never did in 12 years – win a BY6 bowl game.
The two face off on New Year’s Day with a 1:00 PM ET kickoff as opposed to a Thursday night showdown in the Peach Bowl – the other possible bowl matchup the Irish could have landed in.
For the Irish, a Fiesta Bowl berth seemed unlikely following the loss to Cincinnati given the struggles at the time. Notre Dame seemingly had no offensive line and no answer at quarterback. A second-half surge, however, propelled the Irish back in the NY6 and within inches of a playoff berth.
Oklahoma State entered Championship weekend ranked 5th, but fell to Baylor who started a backup quarterback. The Cowboys has a chance to win with a 4th and goal from the one-yard line in the final 30 seconds but came up inches short of converting and winning the Big12 Championship.
In terms of possible matchups for the Irish in an NY6 game, this is favorable. Oklahoma State has a strong defense but did not look particularly strong yesterday against Baylor – specifically on the offensive side of the ball. Aside from their loss to Baylor, the Cowboys also lost to Iowa State and the fighting Matt Campbells earlier this year. They struggled against Texas in mid-October, but like Notre Dame, they finished the season strong.
The last NY6 bowl game Notre Dame won was back in January 1994 when the Irish beat Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl. In BCS/NY6/Playoff bowl games, Notre Dame has an 0-7 record all-time. Bob Davie lost his only BCS game, Charlie Weis both of his, and Brian Kelly had an 0-4 record in BCS/playoff/NY6 games.
Notre Dame’s last appearance in the Fiesta Bowl was at the end of the 2015 season. The Irish lost to Ohio State 44-28 in the game and star linebacker Jaylon Smith suffered a gruesome knee injury in the contest.