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Fiesta Bowl Preview: Three Things to Know about Notre Dame

On the Fighting Irish’s struggles in NY6 bowls and one thing the two head coaches have in common.



[Jackson Lavarnway/PFB]

The Cowboys will square off with the Fighting Irish for the first time ever when the two teams clash in this season’s Fiesta Bowl. Here are three things you should know about the storied Notre Dame program before Jan. 1.

There’s a Lot to the Story

Notre Dame has absolutely earned its status as a blueblood, even if most of its luster came before I was born. The Fighting Irish brand has grown more from reruns of Rudy over the last 20 years than wins on the field, but it’s still quite a history!

At 929-330-42, Notre Dame ranks third all-time among FBS programs in win percentage and fourth in total wins. The program claims 11 national championships. Only Alabama (18) boasts more. The Fighting Irish rank first among all FBS programs in NFL Draft picks (520), Consensus All-Americans (104) and Heisman winners (seven). For comparison, OSU’s totals in those categories are 167, 20 and one, respectively.

But like I said, the shine of those golden helmets has faded a bit over the last couple of decades, specifically when you look at ND’s major bowl record.

Notre Dame’s Struggles in NY6 Bowls

The Fighting Irish have not fared well in postseason play for about two decades, specifically in the NY6 bowls.

Notre Dame went 0-4 in BCS Bowls from 1998-2013 and has gone 0-3 in New Year’s Six Bowls since. Despite being T-2nd for titles, the program hasn’t won a national championship since Mike Gundy’s junior year at OSU in 1988.

The Irish are 1-4 in the Fiesta Bowl.

1989: Beat West Virginia 34-21
1995: Lost to Colorado 41-24
2001: Lost to Oregon State 41-9
2006: Lost to Ohio State 34-20
2016: Lost to Ohio State 44-28

That loss to Colorado began a nine-bowl losing streak that lasted over 12 years. The program ranks 49th in bowl win percentage at .486. OSU ranks sixth at .645.

Notre Dame has made the College Football Playoff in two of the three previous years, losing a semifinal to Clemson in the Cotton Bowl in 2018-19 and losing a semifinal to Alabama in last year’s Rose Bowl.

But this game is less about history for Notre Dame and its fans, and more about the future under a new head coach.

Notre Dame Also Lost Its DC

Mike Gundy, the 17-year Oklahoma State CEO, has one thing in common with his counterpart who will be coaching his first game. Marcus Freeman is also having to replace his defensive coordinator.

Gundy’s defensive coordinator, Jim Knowles, headed off to Columbus, but Freeman is having to replace himself after he was elevated to head coach following Brian Kelly’s departure to LSU.

Gundy has stated that he would hold off hiring Knowles’ replacement until after the bowl game, whether that comes from outside the program or within. As of writing, OSU has yet to announce who will call the defense in the Fiesta Bowl but Freeman seems to have at least landed on his defensive line coach Mike Elston who was promoted to associate head coach under Kelly in 2018.

“It’s a work in progress,” said according to “I’ve been in the preparation phase. That’s the hardest part. I can give you the call sheet and say, ‘Here’s the calls you can make.’

“Calling the plays sometime is overrated. Someone might tell you otherwise and say, ‘You do a great job calling plays.’ I think we do a great job in our preparation. That’s what I’ve been focused on.

“In practice, when we do live calling periods, [defensive line coach Mike] Elston calls it. I’m the referee running up and down the field. I’ll be involved with some other things we do defensively, but we’ll figure it out. Elston has taken that role in practice. ‘Here’s the game plan, call it.’ We’ll work hand-in-hand.”

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