The Fiesta Bowl is one filled with change as both the 11-2 Oklahoma State Cowboys and 11-1 Notre Dame Fighting Irish will be showcasing new coaches and starters. The Cowboys are without defensive coordinator Jim Knowles after he bolted for Ohio State, and the Fighting Irish watched Brian Kelly depart to LSU. Former defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman is now leading the Irish, injecting new energy and a friendlier presence to the program.
Unfortunately, the Irish will absolutely miss star rusher Kyren Williams and safety Kyle Hamilton as they’re sitting this one out as the NFL awaits both. This has impacted the line and we’ll provide two college football picks that factor in these decisions. Star Cowboys rusher Jaylen Warren may also miss the game due to a leg injury he suffered in November.
Let’s dive into our game preview and picks.
Oklahoma State Cowboys vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Saturday, January 01, 2022 – 01:00 PM EST at State Farm Stadium
Cowboys Will Win
Forget the spread, Oklahoma State was a good bet to win outright before the Irish’s two best players announced their decision to sit this one out. Armed with one of the few elite defenses in the nation thanks to their aggressive nature and veteran experience, the Cowboys constrict on every offense they face. They rank eighth in scoring, 10th in passing yards allowed, and fifth in rushing yards despite playing in the Big 12.
The offense isn’t pretty, especially if Warren is out, but there are quality playmakers who can somewhat supplant his production. Warren is a workhorse with a thick build and decent explosiveness. I expect backup Dominic Richardson to fill in admirably if Warren is out based on his own production rates and usage rivaling Warren’s despite limited time.
The pressure will be on Irish quarterback Jack Coan to be excellent. Credit needs to go to Coan for his growth away from Wisconsin, as he proved to be a viable starter after disappointing often in his previous stop. In no world did I expect a completion rate of 67%, 8.3-yard average, 20 touchdowns, and five picks.
But the uptick in the competition will test him, and this passing game often bogged down against quality competition.
Grind It Out
Coan threw for no more than 223 yards against the following teams: Purdue, Wisconsin, Cincinnati, Virginia Tech, USC, North Carolina, and Virginia. The Irish aren’t dependent on the senior, and now they’ll need him to step up without his usual help. This is a bad sign for their ability to put up points.
Similarly, the Cowboys simply don’t score effectively. Their own passing game is subpar and barely functional at times. Notre Dame’s 10th-ranked scoring defense isn’t quite as good as their foe’s but they’re able to bring pressure and force turnovers well enough.
This is an easy call to go under even a moderately low line.
Oklahoma State ML (+110) with BetMGM
Under 45.5 (-110) with Bet365