Fiesta Bowl 2021: Full Preview and Predictions for Notre Dame vs. OK State

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistDecember 6, 2021

Notre Dame's Braden Lenzy runs against Stanford during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Stanford, Calif., Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021. (AP Photo/Jed Jacobsohn)
Jed Jacobsohn/Associated Press

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish come into the Fiesta Bowl in one of the most unique situations a team has ever entered a New Year's Six bowl. 

The New Year's Day game at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, marks the debut of Marcus Freeman as their head coach. Freeman was promoted from defensive coordinator after Brian Kelly left for the LSU Tigers. 

Notre Dame should have more motivation to win than the Oklahoma State Cowboys, who had their College Football Playoff hopes dashed in the Big 12 Championship Game.

The Fiesta Bowl is a consolation prize for Mike Gundy's team and nothing else. It may be hard for the Big 12 runner-up to find the right motivation for its second New Year's Six appearance in the playoff era. 


Fiesta Bowl Information

Date: Saturday, January 1

Start Time: 1 p.m. ET 


Live Stream: ESPN app and ESPN.com



Freeman's promotion to head coach provided a jolt to the Notre Dame program. The Fiesta gives him a chance to set the tone inside the program for the offseason. 

Notre Dame's defense played great under Freeman in the final month of the regular season. It allowed 23 points to its last four opponents. 

Defensive play could be vital to success on New Year's Day since Baylor thrived on that side of the ball against Oklahoma State in the Big 12 Championship Game. The Bears intercepted Spencer Sanders on four occasions and limited the Cowboys quarterback to 5.6 yards per attempt. 

The Irish defense produced 15 interceptions, with three of them coming from star safety Kyle Hamilton. Hamilton missed the back end of the regular season with a knee injury, and he could skip the Fiesta Bowl to prepare for the NFL draft.

Even without Hamilton, the unit could cause all sorts of issues for Sanders and the Oklahoma State passing game.

The Cowboys are also at a disadvantage because of the injury suffered by running back Jaylen Warren on Saturday. Gundy told reporters that he is hopeful that Warren is back for the Fiesta Bowl, per Eli Lederman of the Tulsa World. Warren ran for 1,134 yards and 11 touchdowns this season.

If Warren is still banged up, Notre Dame could feast by putting Sanders under pressure and creating turnovers. 

Oklahoma State boasts the eighth-ranked defense (16.8 points per game) but did yield 683 total yards in its last two games against Baylor and Oklahoma. 

The Cowboys might also come into Arizona with less motivation than the Irish because their goal was to qualify for the playoff and that was cut short at the last step. 



Notre Dame 27, Oklahoma State 16

Notre Dame's stellar defensive play should carry over into the Fiesta Bowl. 

The Irish allowed one of their final six opponents to score more than 20 points, and the defense played well in its two meetings with Top 25 teams. 

Notre Dame only conceded 24 points at home to the Cincinnati Bearcats after limiting the Wisconsin Badgers to 13 points. 

If the Irish boast a similar level of dominance against an Oklahoma State team with little motivation, they could cruise to the Fiesta Bowl victory and set up Freeman for an offseason of success.