Sun Bowl 2023
Notre Dame is gearing up to take on the Oregon State Beavers in the 2023 Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl. Based on the teams’ rosters and season, this is a great (greeeeeeaaaat!) matchup. However, both rosters have been decimated by opt outs and transfers, which lessens the matchup quite significantly.
To put it lightly, the teams will each be missing (by a wide margin) more than 60/70% of the offensive production throughout the 2023 season. Starting QBs, RBs, OL, TEs, WRs, and so on. However, purely from a fan fiction fan standpoint, this makes the matchup all the more intriguing. Here’s why.....
Silencing the “well this guy would be doing....”
There has been a portion of the fanbase who have been clamoring to see more of Steve Angeli. He has been very good in limited duty this year, but after the Clemson loss there was a feeling of, “we gotta see what he can do” as we look to 2024. The bowl game will gives fans just that chance, and he isn’t the only player in that category. Some of the other players I will be incredibly intrigued by include:
Kenny Minchey - Does he get a package/will we see him at all?
KK Smith - The unknown freshman speedster who is back from injury
Jaylen Sneed - What does he look like as a full game starter at LB?
Drayk Bowen - Is he the leader in the middle for the next 2 years?
Boubacar Traore - Does the twitchy freshman show us a glipse of future 1st rounder?
Tosh Baker - Replacing Joe Alt is a tough task for anyone.....
Amil Wagner - See above but with Blake Fisher
Jeremiyah Love/Jadarian Price - How do these guy look in a quantity role? Who emerges as RB1?
All of these guys will either get their first major action or a significant uptick in playing time. It will help the coaches evaluate these guys when the bullets are flying for a full game and give the fans a taste of some hypotheticals they have been craving. Will it be the definitive indicator of next year? No, but it is a game where guys will get a shot to show what they have in a competitive moment against a good opponent. With that said, my head will explode if KK Smith takes a deep ball to the house, as yours should too.
Stopping the portal bleeding
For some guys who on are on the fringe of transferring, this is a great opportunity for them to show they can be, “the guy”. I won’t name names, but there are a few backups who MAY be in line to start next year, but could easily bolt if they didn’t see time in a bowl game. It is a game that could propel some careers, as we’ve seen in the past. For some others, this could be an audition to play somewhere else....either way, more guys playing is better for the program.
Let’s get weird
In years past, bowl games have “launched” a few careers of some notable ND players. Lets take a look at some recent examples....
CJ Prosise: Prosise had a fine year in 2014 as a slot receiver, but only tallied 51 yards on the ground up until that point. In the bowl game, he took a handoff 50 yards for the touchdown and looked like a potential RB candidate.....little did we know that a 1,000 yard season as RB1 would follow.
Miles Boykin: Boyin had 151 yards on the entire year heading into the 2017 Music City Bowl. He made one of the more memorable plays of the decade before establishing himself as WR1 in 2017 and moving on to the NFL Draft.
Hellloooo Miles Boykin. Game-winning TD vs LSU in the 2017-2018 Citrus Bowl. pic.twitter.com/bNznRyWFkW— Alex Kozora (@Alex_Kozora) March 24, 2019
Malik Zaire: Zaire only saw action in a few games in 2014 up until the bowl game. He replaced Everett Golson in the game and played well enough to beat a good LSU team. This vaulted him into the starting lineup in 2015 before a devastating ankle injury derailed his career.
Ian Book: Book started 1 game in 2017 against North Carolina and played a solid game. He played in relief of Brandon Wimbush in the, “Boykin Game” and went 14/19 with 160 a 2 tds. He didn’t start out the next season, but would take over early in the year and not let go of the starting role for 3 years on a path to becoming the winningest QB in ND history. Not too bad.
Who could be the breakout player in this game?
While this isn’t the season that we wanted, bowl games are a chance at potential and are the final taste left in your mouth heading into the offseason. And remember......Football > Not Football. EVERY. DAMN. TIME.