Colin: It is my sense that most Buckeye fans are viewing this game as a glorified scrimmage. Sure, a win over Notre Dame would be nice, but considering nothing is really at stake, it's basically just a fun game to watch on New Year's Day. I suspect the Domer fan base views it differently. What are your thoughts on the overall vibe of this match up?
Baver: Most Buckeye fans I talk to think the Bucks roll in this one, but I’m not seeing it. It’s definitely a bigger game for Notre Dame than Ohio State….and I think this game is VERY big for the Irish.
Colin: Basically the same question, but focusing on the players. Many of these Buckeyes are turning pro and already have a National Championship under their belt. Should they really care if they win the Fiesta Bowl or is it just an excuse to party in the desert sunshine?
Baver: Not getting maximum output out of the OSU guys is a major concern. The following underclassmen are playing (or likely playing) their last games as Buckeyes: Zeke, Bosa, Cardale, M Thomas, J Marshall, D Lee, V Bell, and Apple….with Tyvis also considering the jump. Will some of these guys want to protect their NFL stock and scale it back a notch? It wouldn’t shock me.
Colin: Can the Buckeyes win this game even if they aren't as fired up as they were for the Michigan game?
Baver: Yes. They won’t be as fired up as they were for Michigan, but they will still field considerably more talent Friday than Notre Dame will….and that isn’t taking anything away from the Irish. I think the bettors expect Notre Dame to be up for this game more than Ohio State, yet Vegas still has OSU as a 6½ pt. favorite.
Colin: Can the Buckeye O carry the momentum from that destruction of the Maize & Blue a month ago?
Baver: They may need to get more done through the air. Michigan’s defense folded late in the year and I expect the Irish defense to challenge the Ohio State offense a bit more. But if JTB and the Buckeye passing game have made strides in December practices, Notre Dame could be in trouble.
Colin: Will depth on the D Line be a problem for the Buckeyes?
Baver: This is another huge concern for Ohio State. There is a monumental downgrade from Aldolphus Washington to the #2 DT….and that #2 DT Tommy Schutt is also out. They’ll play Bosa inside a lot, but the loss of Washington is a big one.
Colin: Give us an update on your picks to date and what other Bowl games will you be keeping an eye on?
Baver: 22-13-1 against the spread, including 10-2 ATS picking the OSU games, which includes 7 correct OSU picks in a row. I think the ND game could go either way. The “situational” angle screams: Notre Dame…to cover at a minimum. I will take the Bucks to win the game and call it 31-30 OSU. I think Clemson is being disrespected a bit and see them beating Oklahoma. And I hope I am wrong with this one, but I think Alabama takes care of Sparty by 2 TD’s-plus…despite Dino’s record as a dog. Unlike the Bama-OSU matchup last year, this is a talent mismatch, and Bama now has a big chip on their shoulder.