The Fiesta Bowl landed a five-star matchup on Sunday when it announced that No. 7 Ohio State would face No. 8 Notre Dame at 11 a.m. on Jan. 1 at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale. The game will be televised on ESPN.
The announcement came shortly after the College Football Playoff rankings and semifinal matchups were announced with No. 1 Clemson facing No. 4 Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl and No. 2 Alabama facing No. 3 Michigan State in the Cotton Bowl. The winners will advance to play in the second CFP Championship Game at University of Phoenix Stadium on Jan. 11.
Both Ohio State and Notre Dame were in the national championship picture until late in the season. Ohio State fell to Michigan State, 17-14 on Nov. 21 to drop out of contention. Notre Dame lost at Stanford, 38-36, on Nov. 28 to end the Cardinal’s title hopes.
Ohio State coach Urban Meyer admitted it was difficult to rebound from the loss to the Spartans, even though the Buckeyes played and soundly beat rival Michigan the following week in Columbus.
“That was a tough week and I know (Notre Dame) coach (Brian) Kelly feels the same,” Meyer said. “There’s always talk about the intensity of (college basketball’s) March Madness. I always make light of that and say ‘March Madness for us starts in August.’
“To go undefeated in college football is very hard and then you start gauging the losses — how they happen and when they happen — that’s very hard on a team. The fact that we are playing a team that should be playing for a national championship — they’re certainly talented enough — that certainly will make the challenge a lot easier.”
Although he said he could foresee a time when the college football playoff expands to eight teams, Kelly deflected a question about the need to do it now.
“Where we are is certainly better than where we were when we were just dealing with computers,” he said. “I think we’ve got it right right now.”
Meyer coached wide receivers at Notre Dame from 1996-2000 under Lou Holtz and Bob Davie. His son, Nate, was born and baptized there and he admitted that as an Irish Catholic, he still has strong ties to the school.
“It’s a very spiritual place and has a special place in my heart,” he said.
Ohio State finished just behind No. 5 Iowa in the final playoff rankings so the Hawkeyes edged the Buckeyes for a Rose Bowl bid against No. 6 Stanford after an impressive showing in a tight loss to Michigan State in the Big Ten title game.
While the Rose Bowl’s two opponents carry higher rankings, the Fiesta Bowl’s carry higher profiles that should guarantee a full house in Glendale 10 days before the national championship.
This will be Ohio State’s seventh appearance (4-2) in the Fiesta Bowl and Notre Dame’s fifth (1-3). The Buckeyes beat the Irish in 2006, 34-20.
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