The 11-1 Fighting Irish finished just out of the playoff money today at #5 in the final CFP ranking. ND did however earn a top consolation prize which is a trip to the Fiesta Bowl on January 1 against the #9 ranked Oklahoma State Cowboys. The Cowboys finished their season at 11-2.
At #5 the Irish came tantalizingly close to a chance to playing for a shot for the national title but ultimately an October stumble at home against Cincinnati by the score of 24-13 proved to be their undoing. That win by Cincinnati on the other hand, was critical to the Bearcat’s own entrance into the final four. Cincinnati finished their season at 13-0 and is the first ever team outside the power five to make it into the playoffs.
The Cowboys likewise came close to making the final four, actually they missed it by inches. In the Big-12 championship game against Baylor Saturday, OSU missed on three tries inside the 2-yard line while time expired. The final play, a run by OSU running back Dezmon Jackson fell literally inches short of the end zone. Baylor prevailed 21-16. A win may have resulted in the Cowboys jumping over Cincinnati into the final four.
OSU features dual threat QB Spencer Sanders who has thrown 16 touchdown passes and has rushed for 543 yards, the most of any Big-12 quarterback. The Cowboys defense is ranked 3rd nationally in total defense and has allowed just 16.8 points per game, eighth best in the NCAA.
The game will mark the first ever meeting between the two programs.
Marcus Freeman will make his head coaching debut in the game and will be officially announced to the world at a press conference on Monday at 2 PM EDT. Former ND quarterback Brady Quinn will host the event which will also feature athletic director Jack Swarbrick and University President, Rev. John Jenkins.
Offensive coordinator Tommy Rees addressed the media for the Irish today in a dual press conference with Cowboy head Coach Mike Gundy, on behalf of the Fiesta Bowl organization. Rees declined to give specific updates on any staff adjustments or the condition of injured safety Kyle Hamilton, deferring to the new Fighting Irish leader. Rees did volunteer that the last week has been “more like a month.”
The Fiesta Bowl, which is played at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, will kickoff at 1 PM EDT and air on ESPN.