Fiesta Bowl preview: 3 things Notre Dame fans should know about Oklahoma State
Notre Dame will finish off its 2021 season on Saturday afternoon in the Fiesta Bowl against Oklahoma State.
This should be one of the best matchups of of bowl season. The Fighting Irish just missed out on a College Football Playoff berth and the Cowboys came within inches of defeating Baylor in the Big 12 Championship.
Here’s three things Notre Dame fans should know about Oklahoma State heading into the Fiesta Bowl:
One of the nation’s best defenses
Oklahoma State is built on defense. The Cowboys have long been known for their dynamic offenses and ability to score points in bunches, but that’s not the case with this particular team. Instead, it’s linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez that leads a fierce defensive unit that has stifled Big 12 offenses all season long.
The Cowboys permitted just 4.41 yards per play this season, which is by far the best mark in the Big 12. It’s good enough for No. 4 nationally, behind only Georgia, Wisconsin and Cincinnati. They also had the Big 12’s best passing defense efficiency rating at 116.2 and held opposing running backs to just 91.15 yards per game.
However, there’s been a change
Oklahoma State will not have defensive coordinator Jim Knowles in this game. Knowles left Stillwater earlier this offseason for the defensive coordinator job at Ohio State and will not be coaching in the Fiesta Bowl.
How big of an impact will that have? That remains to be seen. Oklahoma State’s defense is filled with veterans that should be prepared for a big game like this, even without its coordinator. But it’s certainly not ideal for a unit that showed some small cracks late in the year.
Oklahoma State’s offense is unpredictable
Offensively, the Cowboys are tough to figure. Oklahoma State finished the year with the No. 67 offense nationally, according to SP+. That’s mediocre at best, but the Cowboys’ offense is capable of springing to life under the right conditions. They put up 37 points on Oklahoma, 63 on TCU, 32 on Texas and 31 on Kansas State, for example.
Quarterback Spencer Sanders is responsible for both the highs and the lows in this offense. He’s a dual threat quarterback who, in addition to having 2,468 passing yards this season, also has 543 rushing yards and 6 touchdowns on the ground. However, his 12 interceptions on the year — including 6 in OK State’s final two games — showcase an area that Notre Dame might be able to exploit.
Kickoff is at 1:00 p.m. ET on Saturday.