Neither team should have a problem with motivation in a Fiesta Bowl battle of perennial powerhouses. Maybe it’s not the College Football Playoff, but Ohio State vs. Notre Dame may be watched as much as those other Games. The Buckeyes opened as -6.5 point favorites as seen at 5 Dimes Sportsbook.
Notre Dame didn’t make the final Four, but there’s no reason this team should be upset with the season it had after starting quarterback Malik Zaire went down early on. The Fighting Irish toughed it out and finished with two losses by two points apiece, both road Games at two of the best teams in the country, Clemson and Stanford. On the other end of that, they didn’t really have an outstanding win, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t a good team.
Ohio State was locked into the playoff until the wheels came off in a home loss against Michigan State and its backup quarterbacks. The Buckeyes believe they deserve better, but facing Notre Dame in a bowl will be plenty motivation. They put everything together in the regular season finale, running through Michigan in Ann Arbor in a 42-13 win. If they can play like that again, this result could be similar to what the Buckeyes were able to do in last year’s playoffs.
Notre Dame has faced some good defenses this year (Clemson, Temple, Stanford), but this Ohio State unit may be the most talented one in the country. The Buckeyes had a few slip ups during the year, but for the most part dominated every offense it faced allowing 14 points per Game.
That could end up being a problem for Irish quarterback DeShone Kizer, who seems to have a couple bad throws every Game. But that’s not to say Kizer hasn’t been impressive. He was thrown into the starting role early and has done plenty for this team, tossing 19 TDs and running for nine more. Top running back C.J. Prosise was still questionable to play in this Game at the end of December, so that’ll be something to monitor. Freshman Josh Adams has been good in relief, though, rushing for more than 140 yards in three of the last Four Games. OUtside of the run Game, Ohio State’s main task will be stopping wide receiver Will Fuller (1,145 yards, 13 TDs), who has had another great season, even with Kizer at quarterback.
Notre Dame’s defense may be a liability in this one, and a reason they are touchdown-sized underdogs. It failed them against Clemson and Stanford, but they also allowed plenty of points to lesser teams like Virginia and Pittsburgh throughout the year.
The Buckeyes haven’t put it all together this year, but coming off the 42-point Game at Michigan, they may have found what’s been missing. They ran the ball down Michigan’s throats for 369 yards and five touchdowns — the Wolverines had a top 10 rush defense throughout the entire season. Ezekiel Elliott had another great season with 1,672 yards and 19 touchdowns, and JT Barrett looked like what everyone expected in that Michigan Game running for 139 yards and three touchdowns.
That’s a problem because Notre Dame’s run defense has been mediocre, allowing 166.5 rushing yards per Game on the year. They lost to Clemson because they could not stop the run and Ohio State presents a similar type of offense.
The Fighting Irish are 7-1 ATS in their last eight vs. a team with a winning record, but just 1-4-1 ATS in their last six vs. the Big Ten. The Buckeyes have covered in Four straight neutral-site Games. If the Buckeyes come to play, the Irish are in trouble. Then again, Ohio State never really fully came to play all season, which is why they finished 5-7 ATS.
Our Pick – Let’s start this prediction out by telling you that Our model likes Ohio State by anywhere from a TD to 13 points. In fact, using the last 7 Games only as parameters, the model says 30-17 Ohio State.
That being said, we frequently stray from Our model. The model crunches raw numbers and is a fantastic handicapping tool. But it can’t handicap emotion and everthing else that goes into the process.
It’s much easier to make a case here for the Irish. They played the more difficult Schedule, including 5 top 25 opponents and were two 2 point losses away from making it to the final 4. Those losses came to undefeated Clemson and a very good Stanford team.
Fact is, there is no question Notre Dame can pay with the Buckeyes. They have proved it all year long. Not only can the Irish play with Ohio State, they can win the Game outright. Nothing in their season results suggests otherwise.
Anytime you can grab an underdog that has great potential to win a Game outright, you have a very favorable long term proposition. In other words, if we took the dog in a spot like this 100 times, we figure to win at least 55 of tose Games, which is enough to show a long term profit. Notre Dame +6.5