No. 5 Notre Dame meets No. 9 Oklahoma State in the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 1.
Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. ET at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. The game will be televised on ESPN.
Marcus Freeman will make his debut as the head coach for Notre Dame (11-1). Freeman takes over for Brian Kelly, who surprised many by taking the LSU job. The Irish have a top-10 defense and Jack Coan settled in at quarterback. Star players Kyren Williams and Kyle Hamilton opted out of the bowl game, however.
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Oklahoma State (11-2) lost the Big 12 championship game in heart-breaking fashion, but the Cowboys are back in a New Year’s Day Six bowl for the first time since 2015 under coach Mike Gundy. Defensive coordinator Jim Knowles will not coach in the bowl game after taking the same position at Ohio State. The Cowboys also had a top-10 scoring defense.
This should be a defensive game as a result. With that in mind, here is what you should know about betting on the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl matchup between the Irish and Cowboys:
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Notre Dame vs. Oklahoma State betting odds
Three trends to know
— The Cowboys were 3-0 ATS and 2-1 S/U as an underdog this season, and those three games all had single-digit spreads.
— The Irish were 9-3 ATS this season. Notre Dame was 7-2 ATS as a favorite, and that included seven straight covers to end the regular season.
— Oklahoma State is 10-5 S/U in bowl games under Gundy, and that includes victories in four of their last five appearances. This is the first matchup between the Irish and Cowboys.
Three things to watch
— Jack Coan’s consistency. Irish offensive coordinator Tommy Rees also stayed on the staff, and his impact on Coan cannot be understated. Coan caught on in November with a four-game stretch in which he completed 76% of his passes with 8 TDs and two interceptions. Chris Tyree will take on lead-back duties, and Coan will keep the connection with tight end Michael Mayer.
— Cowboys’ no-Knowles defense. Gundy did not name an interim defensive coordinator to replace Knowles, but the Cowboys will stay on the attack. Five different Oklahoma State defenders had at least 10 tackles for loss this season, including SN second-team All-American linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez (14 TFL). Oklahoma State shuts down the run (2.7 ypc.) and has the second-best defense in the FBS on third down (26.1%). The Irish have a challenge here.
— Spencer Sanders and turnovers. The Oklahoma State quarterback threw six interceptions in the Cowboys’ last two games, including four in the Big 12 championship loss to Baylor. Notre Dame ranked 19th in the FBS in turnover margin at +9. Even without Hamiton in the secondary, it is a talented group that gets after the quarterback. Defensive end Isaiah Foskey (10 sacks) cooled off in the final month of the season. If he can get consistent pressure, then Sanders might serve up a few turnovers. It would help if running back Jaylen Warren, who missed the Big 12 title game with shoulder and ankle injuries, returned.
Stat that matters
Notre Dame went 0-4 in BCS bowls from 1998-2013. The Irish are 0-3 in New Year’s Day Six Bowls in the College Football era. That combined 0-7 record has haunted a program that hasn’t won a national championship since 1988 and continues to have its blue-blood credentials questioned. Freeman can win one of these bowls in his first opportunity, and that could create serious enthusiasm for the Irish heading into next year’s opener at Ohio State.
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Notre Dame vs. Oklahoma State prediction
It’s a huge stage for Freeman’s debut, and the Irish seem poised to take advantage of it. Coan has made it work in a high-percentage passing game, and Tyree will provide enough of a spark in the running game to avoid too many third-and-longs. Notre Dame will build a halftime lead. Oklahoma State will rally, especially if Warren is consistent in the running game, but a late turnover seals a memorable first victory for Notre Dame’s new coach.
Final score: Notre Dame 26, Oklahoma State 21
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