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Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback Jack Coan (17). (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire)
December 30th, 2021
The Fiesta Bowl features a good matchup between fifth-ranked Notre Dame and ninth-ranked Oklahoma State, two teams that were in the College Football Playoff chase.
Notre Dame finished the year on a seven-game win streak. And while Brian Kelly left for LSU after the regular-season finale, Marcus Freeman’s hiring brought a sense of excitement to the program.
Oklahoma State relies on a stingy defense, ranking first nationally in sacks and tackles for loss, and the Cowboys allowed only 278.4 yards per game. They’ll seek to rebound after a bitter loss to Baylor in the Big 12 Championship, coming up short on downs after having first-and-goal on Baylor’s 2-yard line on the final drive.
With Freeman serving as coordinator, Notre Dame improved defensively during the season, allowing only one of its final six opponents to score more than 16 points, and the Irish forced multiple takeaways eight times while finishing with a +9 turnover margin.
The Irish won’t have safety Kyle Hamilton, the projected top pick in the 2022 NFL Draft, but the defense remains formidable. Notre Dame will look to frustrate Oklahoma State quarterback Spencer Sanders, who tossed 12 interceptions along with 16 touchdowns.
Jack Coan gives Notre Dame an edge at quarterback. The Wisconsin transfer threw seven touchdown passes in his last three outings, leading an offense that averaged 38.4 points per game over the last seven contests, and he will pick apart Oklahoma State’s secondary if given time.
Jack Coan just had his dislocated finger popped back into place, ran onto the field, and threw the game-winning touchdown on the very next play.https://t.co/ctkzY3Rtwn— Joe Pompliano (@JoePompliano) September 11, 2021
Jack Coan just had his dislocated finger popped back into place, ran onto the field, and threw the game-winning touchdown on the very next play.https://t.co/ctkzY3Rtwn
Oklahoma State recorded 54 sacks, so protecting Coan is critical, especially with top rusher Kyren Williams opting out.
Down nine points early in the fourth quarter, Oklahoma State rallied to defeat Oklahoma in its home finale, snapping a six-game losing streak to its main rival.
Sanders isn’t the most consistent quarterback, but he can make plays with his arm and legs, throwing for 214 yards and rushing for 93 against Oklahoma. He will need to minimize costly mistakes in the Fiesta Bowl. He threw four interceptions while Oklahoma State scored only 16 points in the Big 12 Championship.
Oklahoma State held Oklahoma scoreless over the final 25 minutes of the second half, and the Cowboys shut out Baylor in the second half. The return of leading rusher Jaylen Warren, who missed the Big 12 Championship due to an injury, will provide a boost to the offense.
Jaylen Warren takes OFF for a 75 yard touchdown 💥 #CFBpic.twitter.com/JX6s5r1HdX— PFF College (@PFF_College) September 19, 2021
Jaylen Warren takes OFF for a 75 yard touchdown 💥 #CFBpic.twitter.com/JX6s5r1HdX
Notre Dame hasn’t faced a defense this good in a long time. Oklahoma State allowed 4.42 yards per play, fourth best nationally, and the Cowboys are fast and aggressive.
Points will be difficult to come by against these defenses, and Notre Dame will be without starting right tackle Josh Lugg due to a knee injury. Couple that with the losses of the Irish's best defender (Hamilton) and leading rusher (Williams), and the personnel losses are significant.
Notre Dame fell into a 17-0 hole in its lone setback to Cincinnati — which, like Oklahoma State, is a top-five defense in yards per play — and Notre Dame will struggle to adapt to the size and speed of Oklahoma State's defense.
After jumping on the Irish early, Oklahoma State will grind out a low-scoring win!
Our predictive engine is calling for Oklahoma State to cover the spread.
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