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David Jablonski | The Dayton Daily News | December 8, 2015

Ohio State vs. Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl: 10 reasons to watch

Behind The Seams: Ohio State Black Uniforms

All bowl games pale in comparison to the College Football Playoff games, especially in the case of Ohio State, which has been there, done that -- and won that.

The defending national champion Buckeyes (11-1), ranked seventh in the final playoff ranking, settle for a date in the desert with No. 8 Notre Dame (10-2) in the Fiesta Bowl at 1 p.m. Jan. 1. The Buckeyes will play in Glendale, Ariz., at University of Phoenix Stadium, which will play host to the national championship game 10 days later.

So why should you care about the Fiesta Bowl? Why should coach Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes be excited? Here are 10 reasons:

1. Legendary programs: These are two of the top-five winningest programs in college football history. Notre Dame ranks second in all-time victories (892-312-42). Ohio State ranks fifth (874-320-53).

2. Meyer's connection: Meyer coached wide receivers at Notre Dame from 1996-2000. He coached under Lou Holtz for one season and Bob Davie for four.

Meyer's son Nathan, now a sophomore in high school, was born in South Bend and baptized on campus.

"That was my first exposure as a full-time coach at that level of football," Meyer said. "I still remember the day I was hired. It was very cold. I took a tour throughout the Touchdown Jesus, Fair-Catch Corby all the great statues, all the great traditions on that campus.

"On a side note, when my mom was diagnosed with cancer, for five straight years every night on my way home, I would stop at the Grotto. It's has a special place in my heart."

3. Kelly's connection: Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly coached three seasons at Cincinnati before being hired at Notre Dame in 2010. Urban Meyer is a Cincinnati graduate.

"I got a chance to know (Meyer) when I was at Cincinnati," Kelly said. "He certainly was accustomed to what the program was like at Cincinnati having been there, and I leaned on him for some advice at the University of Cincinnati and got to know his dad and got to know his family a little bit, so there was a personal connection there."

4. Other connections: Ohio State running backs coach Tony Alford coached at Notre Dame for six seasons before joining Meyer's staff this season. Ohio State offensive coordinator Ed Warinner and tight ends coach Tim Hinton coached under Kelly in 2010 and 2011.

Mickey Marotti, Ohio State's assistant athletic director for sports performance, worked at Notre Dame from 1998-2005 as a strength and conditioning coach. Ohio State Athletic Director Gene Smith played at Notre Dame in the 1970s.

5. Final goodbye: This will be the final game in the scarlet and gray for a number of seniors, including Vandalia Butler graduate Taylor Decker, who originally committed to Notre Dame before switching to Ohio State, and Wayne graduate Braxton Miller.

A number of juniors are also expected to declare themselves eligible for the NFL draft after the season. Running back Ezekiel Elliott already has. Defensive end Joey Bosa, expected to be one of the top picks, is almost guaranteed to do the same.

6. Making history: Ohio State's seniors have 49 victories in their careers. No senior class has ever won 50 games.

7. Rare meeting: Despite Ohio State and Notre Dame's place in the pantheon of great football programs, they have met only five times: in 1936, 1937, 1995, 1996 and 2006.

Notre Dame won the first two games. Ohio State has won the last three. The Buckeyes beat the Fighting Irish 34-20 in the 2006 Fiesta Bowl.

8. Series preview: Ohio State and Notre Dame will play again in seven years. The schools announced a regular-season series in September 2014. Notre Dame plays at Ohio Stadium on Sept. 3, 2022. Ohio State plays at Notre Dame Stadium on Sept. 23, 2023.

9. Recruiting war: Ohio State and Notre Dame cross paths in recruiting circles often. Notre Dame has 10 scholarship players from Ohio, including Alter graduate Malik Zaire, a redshirt junior quarterback who suffered a season-ending broken ankle in September. Another Alter graduate, freshman cornerback Nick Coleman, has appeared in all 12 games for the Irish.

"You could build your program on kids from Ohio," Kelly said. "Ohio State couldn't take them all every year. So we kind of waited for Ohio State to take all their kids, and we tried to take the other ones. There were still enough kids in the state of Ohio that you could build a really good football team with."

10. Building momentum: For the Buckeyes expected to return as starters in 2016, such as quarterback J.T. Barrett, this game provides a chance to create excitement for the upcoming season.

The team will lose so many starters, it's hard to predict where it'll end up in the preseason rankings, but the 2016 schedule includes a game Sept. 17 on the road at Oklahoma. It won't take long to see where the 2016 Buckeyes stand in the national picture.

This article was written by David Jablonski from The Dayton Daily News and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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