For Notre Dame, this is a chance to prove that they are the real deal this year and can have some great momentum heading into next year. For Ohio State, this is really nothing more than a consolation prize. The Buckeyes thought that they would coast into the playoffs, after winning the national championship last year with arguably a less talented team. They hit some light road bumps throughout the year but stayed undefeated until Sparty came into town and beat the Bucks on a last second field goal. So now the Spartans are playing Alabama in the College Football Playoff and Ohio State gets to play in the Fiesta Bowl. Even though this was not their first choice of a bowl game, they will still need to put on a good show if they want to take down the Fighting Irish. Let’s take a look at some keys to the game and who I think will win:
Keys to winning-
Ohio State- On offense, the key is very simple; Feed. Zeke. The running back has eclipsed 100 yards in every game this year except for one…and that was the loss to Michigan State. So you can see where getting him the ball would be important. Adding in the fact that their passing game has been shaky all year and injuries have crippled their receiving core, Zeke will need to carry most of the load on Friday.
On defense, they need to force turnovers. With a back up quarterback and injured running back, Notre Dame will be mistake prone. This is a game of fairly even teams so whatever team makes the most mistakes will have to fight hard to win this game and since this defense has the best chance to cause them.
Notre Dame- On Offense, they need their receiving core to have a big game. As I afore mentioned, they have been using their back up freshman QB DeShone Kizar since Malik Zaire got hurt and even though he has done well, he has not faced a passing defense like the Siliver Bullet yet. Led by All American Vonn Bell, the buckeyes secondary has had a fantastic year and if these Notre Dame receivers are not on their top game, this will be a long game for Kizar.
On Defense, the answer is also simple; Shut. Down. Zeke. If they let Elliot run all over them, it will be a very long day but if they can force Barrett to put the ball in the air and make some mistakes, they will help their chances to win immensely.
Ohio State- WR Michael Thomas
Yes, Ezekiel Elliot has to have a big game for them to win, but Micheal Thomas is the X factor because if he does not have a good game, then this Buckeye offense will quickly turn into a one dimensional offense. He has had a great year and has really made JT Barrett‘s and Cardale Jones life much easier and he has all the tools to lit up any corner back in football, he just has to bring it with him to Arizona.
Notre Dame- RB CJ Prosise
Prosise missed the final regular season game with an ankle sprain, but the word is he will be ready to go against Ohio State. He has ran for 1,032 yards and 11 touchdowns this year and if he can run well and pound the ball down this Buckeye’s defenses throat and mainly keep the ball away from their shutdown secondary, he will give the Fighting Irish a much better chance to win.
Ohio State-27 Notre Dame-17
Spark Sports NCAA Analyst