Brian Kelly has said that Notre Dame is playing the best team in the country in the Fiesta Bowl. That team would be No. 7 Ohio State (11-1), which has won 24 of its last 25 games, with the only loss coming to No. 3 Michigan State on a last-second field goal.
The Irish are no slouches in their own right, having gone 10-2 with a pair of two-point losses to Clemson and Stanford, which are now ranked No. 1 and No. 6, respectively. Notre Dame, however, is battered and bruised and has a bevy of backups who will see significant time against the Buckeyes.
What, in the end, will decide this game?
“Well, I think the biggest factor in the game is going to be what it’s been all year for Notre Dame: their injuries,” Notre Dame color commentator Doug Flutie said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “Secondary-wise, they’re really beat up. KeiVarae Russell, the starting corner, got hurt at the end of the season. Devin Butler had a broken foot this week. Max Redfield was sent home for the bowl game. There’s three guys in the secondary already with the group that’s been beat up. Ohio State (will be) physical with them, (but) I don’t know. I really believe in DeShone Kizer and the offense of Notre Dame. Even though I see all these injuries – maybe I’m a little too close to the Notre Dame program now and see them up close and personal – but I think they find a way to get it done.”
As for the aforementioned Tigers, Flutie believes that Clemson will defeat No. 4 Oklahoma (11-1) in the Orange Bowl and play for the national championship on Jan. 11.
“I like them because of (Deshaun) Watson and what he brings to the table offensively,” Flutie explained. “He’s a poised, mature kid. He can get it done from the pocket, and he’s a great zone-read kind of guy too. The ball’s in his court. He’s the guy that makes a difference.”