Boy, are we in for a show. The Fiesta Bowl features two teams who could have (and perhaps should have) qualified for the College Football Playoff.
Oklahoma State (11-2) had a very viable shot, but losing to Baylor in their conference championship sealed the deal. Still, it’s hard to argue with these results when they opened the season unranked.
Notre Dame (11-1) lost a game earlier in the season to No. 4 Cincinnati but has been playing stellar football since. Had Alabama lost to Georgia or Cincinnati to Houston last week, there’s a solid chance that Notre Dame would have made it in.
I expect both teams to be coming with full force for one of the biggest bowl games of the season. I’m expecting an absolute battle.
All NCAAF gameday odds are courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook and current as of 1:00 p.m. ET on Thursday, December 30.
Notre Dame vs Oklahoma State Prediction
Oklahoma State has not really handled the big moments well this season. In two games against rival Baylor this season — huge games with serious implications — quarterback Spencer Sanders threw a combined seven interceptions, with four coming in last week’s conference championship bout.
Sanders is the kind of quarterback that needs to manage the game and not make too many mistakes. When Oklahoma State beat teams like Texas, Kansas State, and TCU, he was able to eliminate the turnovers.
This Cowboys defense is ferocious, and easily one of the best in the country. In the 13 games they’ve played this season, Oklahoma State leads the nation in sacks (54) and tackles for loss (113). EDGE Collin Oliver is averaging almost a sack per game, with 11.5 on the season.
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Speaking of defense, Notre Dame definitely isn’t a team we can sleep on. The Irish rank eighth in sacks with 40 and No. 53 in tackles for loss with 77 in 12 games this year. As we have already covered, Sanders can be shaky, and constantly getting pressure on him will be huge for this team.
Notre Dame hasn’t quite struggled in the same way with turnovers, with quarterback Jack Coan only throwing six interceptions so far this year. Coan has proved to be a good game manager, and Notre Dame would definitely like to take their time and run the ball in this extremely tough matchup.
Fiesta Bowl Prediction: Oklahoma State 21, Notre Dame 17
Fiesta Bowl Game Best Bets
Best Bet: Under 45 Total Points (-110) at Caesars
Wager: 1 Unit
I don’t think this bet needs a whole lot of analysis to go with it. These are two of the best defenses in the nation. We still have a while to go before January 1, but I’d imagine this number falls at least two or three points before kickoff.
Oklahoma State has played 13 games this year, and in only four of those games did their opponents score more than 21 points. Holding quality competition like Baylor, TCU, Boise State, and KSU to three touchdowns or less is definitely something to be proud of.
Additionally, the teams that did have success scoring the ball against them all play a much more uptempo offensive-based game than Notre Dame does. Oklahoma and Texas both score a lot of points, and ISU went over 21 points with a last-minute field goal to win the game.
The key number in this game is 21 for me, and I think they should be able to hold Notre Dame under 21, making this our NCAAF bet of the day.
Best Bet: Oklahoma State +2 (-110) at Caesars
Wager: 0.5 Units
This is a tough game to handicap, but in what I’d imagine will be a low-scoring, defensive-minded game, I’ll take the points all day. Both of these teams have very strong defenses.
What happened last time Notre Dame played a legitimate defense in Cincinnati? They lost, and it wasn’t pretty. I’m expecting Oklahoma State’s defense to not only be energized, but to be coming in with an extreme amount of confidence after watching Notre Dame fold earlier in the season.
Since this is a betting article, we haven’t yet addressed former Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly leaving for the LSU Tigers. Interestingly enough, that move did not change the Vegas lines whatsoever, despite all the drama surrounding it. Marcus Freeman will be taking his place after recently being named head coach.
I don’t factor that kind of narrative into betting these games at all. I currently have this game as a pick’em, and if Vegas is going to give me 2.5 points in what I expect to be an extremely close game, I’ll take it every time.
Get your popcorn ready, folks. This should be a good one.