Here are five things to know about the Notre Dame football team:
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A new coach
The Fiesta Bowl will be the first game for Marcus Freeman as Notre Dame’s head coach. He was named the new coach last Friday, taking over for Brian Kelly, who left for LSU.
Freeman served this season at Notre Dame’s defensive coordinator after coming over from Cincinnati.
A 35-year-old Ohio native, Freeman played college football at Ohio State from 2004-08 and spent one season on NFL practice squads before turning to coaching in 2010. He coached at Ohio State, Kent State and Purdue before being hired as Cincinnati’s defensive coordinator in 2017.
He remained there through the 2020 season, when he was hired to the same role at Notre Dame.
The Bowl Championship Series began in 1998, then transitioned to the College Football Playoff in 2014.
During that time, Notre Dame has played in seven BCS/New Year’s Six bowl games, and has yet to win one. The Fighting Irish lost those seven games by an average of 23 points per game.
Notre Dame hasn’t fared much better in the Fiesta Bowl, going 1-4 in five appearances. Oddly enough, Notre Dame’s previous three Fiesta Bowl appearances have been against an OSU — twice against Ohio State (2006 and 2016) and once against Oregon State (2001), with Notre Dame losing all three.
Notre Dame also lost to Colorado in the 1995 Fiesta Bowl. The Irish beat West Virginia 34-21 in the 1989 Fiesta Bowl, winning the national championship that season.
A tough defense
Notre Dame is tied for 10th nationally in interceptions this season, with 15 — a stat that should make OSU folks a little nervous after quarterback Spencer Sanders was picked off four times against Baylor in the Big 12 championship game loss on Saturday.
But the Notre Dame defense is strong across the board, not just in takeaways.
It ranks ninth nationally in scoring defense, giving up just 18.3 points per game. It ranks 30th nationally in total yardage allowed, giving up 339.1 yards per game. Of that total, 127.1 yards have come on the ground.
Notre Dame allowed 16 or fewer points to six opponents this year, and was particularly strong in November, allowing a total of 23 points over four games.
Linebacker JD Bertrand leads the team with 92 tackles, and defensive lineman Isaiah Foskey leads the way with 10 sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss.
A balanced offense
The Notre Dame offense can offer a good mix of running and passing, with a 1,000-yard rusher and 2,500-yard passer.
Kyren Williams leads the ground attack, having rushed for 1,002 yards this season with 14 touchdowns, averaging 4.9 yards per carry.
Jack Coan has completed 67.6% of his passes for 2,641 yards with 20 touchdowns and six interceptions.
His favorite target has been Michael Mayer with 768 yards and five touchdowns on 64 receptions. Williams also has 42 catches for 359 yards and three touchdowns.
Close calls, but not lately
Notre Dame is 11-1 on the season, and has had its share of tight fits. Its first two victories of the season, over Florida State and Toledo, were three-point wins, with the Florida State game going to overtime.
Notre Dame also defeated Virginia Tech by three on Oct. 9 — a week after the Irish suffered their only loss, 24-13 to Cincinnati — but since then, the wins have come a little more easily.
Over the last six games, only one of Notre Dame’s wins has been closer than 15 points — a 44-34 win over North Carolina. The other five wins have been decided by an average of 30.8 points.
This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: OSU vs Notre Dame: 5 things to know about Fighting Irish, Fiesta Bowl