Notre Dame vs. Ohio State Fiesta Bowl Free Pick 01/01/16
NCAA-F | Jan 01, 2016
Notre Dame vs. Ohio State
Notre Dame +6½-106
The Ohio State Buckeyes are getting a ton of respect from oddsmakers in this game because of their dominant win over the Michigan Wolverines in their season finale. I believe it’s too much respect as they should not be favored by nearly a touchdown against the Fighting Irish. I look at this as a very evenly-matched game, and I certainly question the motivation of the Buckeyes in a lesser bowl game after winning the National Championship last year. Of course they are going to get up for rival Michigan, but this is a different story.
I think Notre Dame will be the more motivated team to try and prove to the playoff committee that it deserved to be in the four-team playoff. There’s no question the Fighting Irish were good enough to get in, but they had a couple bad breaks in two road losses to Clemson and Stanford by a combined four points. They missed a 2-point conversion that would have forced OT against Clemson, and they gave up a last-second 45-yard field goal to Stanford after going ahead on a TD of their own with only 30 seconds to play.
The Fighting Irish have been hearing about their failures in big games leading up to this bowl game, which will only add fuel to their fire. They lost in the 2012 National Championship to Alabama. In fact, the program hasn’t won a major bowl game since 1993. That is not lost on these players and coaches as they prepare for the Fiesta Bowl with an extra determination to prove their doubters wrong.
Notre Dame certainly played a more difficult schedule than Ohio State this season. It played the 20th-toughest schedule in the country, while the Buckeyes faced the 61st-toughest slate of games. The Fighting Irish put up tremendous numbers offensively against that tough schedule. They averaged 34.7 points, 472 yards per game and 7.1 per play against teams that allow 24.5 points, 368 yards per game and 5.4 per play. It also gave up 22.4 points, 362 yards per game and 5.5 per play on defense.
Ohio State was not the offensive juggernaut this season that it was a year ago. It only averaged 429 yards per game against teams that gave up 388 yards per game. The Buckeyes struggled to put away teams like Northern Illinois (won by 7) and Indiana (won by 7), and they lost against the best team it played in Michigan State. The Buckeyes were held to 14 points and 152 total yards in that loss to the Spartans in their 11th game of the season.
The Buckeyes are just 3-11 ATS off a road win over the last three seasons. Brian Kelly is a sensational 30-14 ATS as an underdog in all games he has coached. Kelly is also 23-9 ATS against teams with a winning percentage of better than 75% in all games he has coached. The Fighting Irish are 7-1 ATS in their last eight games vs. teams with winning records. Take the points with Notre Dame Friday.