Aside from his 148 career wins, 17 years of experience as a head coach, 16 consecutive winning seasons and a handful of Big 12 and National Coach of the Year awards, what does Mike Gundy do? ‘Oklahoma State really has that Marcus Freeman of Notre Dame?
OK, so there’s also Gundy’s famous hairstyle, a party mullet who seems to want to stick around for as long as the 54-year-old can put up with. And there’s the even more famous meme – “I’m a man!” I’m 40 years old ! – who has stuck with Gundy since he took off at a press conference in 2007.
Oh, but there’s that too: an impressive record of 10-5 bowls.
This is all a bit more than Freeman, 35, for whom he made his head coach debut at the Fiesta Bowl on New Years Day. And what a challenge to start with. No. 5 Notre Dame (-2) vs. No. 9 Oklahoma State (noon, ESPN) is found, with the Irish just missing the college football playoffs and the Cowboys getting even closer. If running back Dezmon Jackson had gained an extra 6 inches in OSU’s last offensive play in the Big 12 title game against Baylor, the Cowboys would likely have ended up in the bottom four.
“You turn on the movie, you watch [OSUâs] offense and their defense in particular are playing extremely hard, extremely physical – it’s a challenge, âsaid Freeman. âThe ability to match that intensity, match that physique and how hard they play, will be a huge challenge, but I think we’re up to it and that’s what we’ll have to do if we’re going to be successful. . “
Gundy’s teams are generally known for their on-track attacks, but that relies on a quick, punchy defense that allows for a meager 278.4 yards per game. It’s a tall order for Irish quarterback Jack Coan and for the Irish racing game, which will rely on full-backs Chris Tyree and Logan Diggs as Kyren Williams has retired.
It’s also a blow to be unsecured Kyle Hamilton, another opt-out, but that’s post-season college football in 2021. Wait, do it 2022.
Notre Dame has lost her last four trips to the Fiesta Bowl, which really doesn’t mean anything. Notre Dame also enjoyed ultimate glory in the Fiesta Bowl, closing the 1988 National Championship season by beating West Virginia. But that doesn’t mean anything either, does it? Of course not.
The Irish pass rush – 40 sacks this season, one off the school record – certainly means something. In fact, go ahead and call it the key to this game. Cowboys QB Spencer Sanders seemed reeling against Baylor, who harassed him with four interceptions. Here’s your game plan, guys: put Isaiah Foskey (10 sacks) and the boys loose, make Sanders uncomfortable and steal so much that it makes his trainer’s hair fall out even more.
But Freeman doesn’t need anyone to tell him. He is the architect of this Irish defense. Worth noting: he was also a big part of the success of the Cincinnati playoff team, whose defense he coordinated from 2017-2020. This guy is good. Irish, 23-17.
OTHER NEW YEAR’S BOWLS
Outback: Penn State (+ 2Â½) against No. 21 Arkansas (Saturday, 11 a.m., ESPN2): The churn issue is greatest on the wide receiver, with each team having their best guy in the Nittany Lions ‘Jahan Dotson and the Razorbacks’ Treylon Burks. But the Hogs have more of their guys on the roster, huge second QB KJ Jefferson is a star in the making and coach Sam Pittman has his mojo that works. Pig Sooie, 28-23.
Citrus: No.15 in Iowa (+3) vs. No.22 in Kentucky (Saturday, noon, Ch. 7): It’s hard to beat the Big Ten offensive, baby. And by “Big Ten offense” we mean Kentucky QB Will Levis (a transfer from Penn State) and wide Wan’Dale Robinson (a transfer from Nebraska). You also have to love Wildcats coach Mark Stoops, who went – you guessed it – to Iowa. Big Blue, 24-16.
Rose: 6th Ohio State (-4) against 11th Utah (Saturday, 4 p.m., ESPN): No knock on the players doing it, but this takedown business is so underwhelming when it comes to the Rose Bowl. It used to be the biggest and best scene in college football, national title implications or not. Now the Buckeyes will enter the field without several healthy starters, including star receivers Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave. It seems like a much bigger deal for the Pac-12 champion Utah. Utes, 34-31.
Sugar: n Â° 8 Mississippi (-1Â½) vs n Â° 7 Baylor (Saturday, 7:45 p.m., ESPN): The names on the marquee belong to NFL-linked QB Matt Corral and his coach, Lane Kiffin, who is getting a lot more attention than Baylor’s Dave Aranda ever would have dream. Not that there is anything wrong with it – Kiffin and Corral made the season more fun. The Steel Bears are ready to save them every inch, however. Ole Miss, 27-24.
Last week: 6-3 in a row before Friday’s playoff games, 6-3 ATS.
Season to date: 95-44-1 in a row heading into Friday’s playoffs, 75-63-2 ATS.