Bowl season is officially upon us! The Irish are set to face off against the Oregon State Beavers in the Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl out in El Paso. There’s been a tornado of activity for the Notre Dame football program and college football world since the last time the team took the field. All of that chaos has taken away a lot of the steam that would’ve otherwise been pushing the lead up to this game but regardless there are still a ton of things to be excited about.
Cheesy bowl game names and sponsorships are apparently here to stay. Or at least as long as the games can continue to scrounge up viewers and teams with functional rosters. But as a Frosted Flakes fanatic, I’m not upset about Tony hosting Notre Dame this postseason. Things could’ve been definitely weirder (i.e. the Mayo Bowl). At least we get a top 5 all time breakfast cereal.
Also, the Irish get another chance to pull out a win against Oregon State. Going into this year’s matchup, Notre Dame football is 0-2 against the Beavers. The first loss came in the 2001 Fiesta Bowl and the second via the 2004 Insight Bowl. It’s not a “rivalry” that I imagine most fans of either teams think about a lot but it would definitely be nice for the Irish to be able to claim a win in the series.
And things are hopefully (knock on wood) leaning in ND’s favor. While Notre Dame’s roster and coaching situations are in a bit of disarray, Oregon State is objectively in a worse position.
Regular Season Summary
The Beavers are coming into the Sun Bowl 8-4 through the regular season. They took an early loss to Washington State (35-38). Their real troubles started to come later on with a 24-27 loss to Arizona and then back-to-back losses to Washington (20-22) and Oregon (7-31) to close out the season. Just from a 30,000-foot view, it wasn’t the worst outing for the Beavers. Three of their losses ended up with a -3 point or less differential and the only real blowout handed out by Oregon who ended up 11-2 and ranked #8 in the CFP rankings.
But the opt-out period has proven devastating for the 2023 Oregon State squad. The only two quarterbacks who logged snaps in the regular season will both be absent for the Sun Bowl. Their top running back is also gone but the regular season’s #2 will be around for the postseason action. The Beaver’s receiver corps is largely intact although their most productive wide receiver and tight ends won’t be on the field to face off against the Irish.
The team’s rushing game is likely to be significantly compromised. DJ Uiagalelei was #3 in terms of carries and yards during the regular season. He was also #1 in terms of rushing touchdowns. Deshaun Fenwick will have a lot to cover for and the remainder of the Beaver’s running back room will be coming into the game largely untested in regular season action.
Although Oregon State’s receiver corps is comparatively in better shape, the lack of a quarterback who has seen any field time doesn’t bode well for the air attack. In terms of overall protection the Beavers will definitely miss wide receiver Anthony Gould and tight end Jack Velling but as far as touchdowns are concerned Deshaun Fenwick and Silas Bolden (both still playing) were key during the regular season.
The real dealbreaker in this game will likely come down to something that can’t really be quantified though: Leadership. While both Notre Dame and Oregon State are coming into the game with the cards stacked against them (from a depth and staffing perspective), the Irish have the edge of overall program leadership remaining intact.
Marcus Freeman still being at the helm of the program and recent moves pointing to good times in the future will hopefully provide the Irish what they need to finally pull of a win against the Beavers and tally up nine wins for the 2023 campaign.
Cheers and Go Irish!!