Notre Dame assistant: OSU presents 'another step in our program's development'

December 28, 2015

Notre Dame football has not taken a backseat to many -- if any -- programs historically, but the Fighting Irish coaching staff has already been frank about its matchup with Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl. 

Head coach Brian Kelly already called the Buckeyes the best team in the country on his first day in the desert, and assistant coach Mike Denbrock continued to praise them on day two. 

"I think it's another step in our program's development, sure," Denbrock told reporters Monday in Glendale, Ariz. "It gives us an opportunity to play the defending national champion in a major bowl game. To go out and accomplish the mission and give ourselves the opportunity to win this game would be a big step in the right direction." 

The Fighting Irish could be playing for the national championship themselves this season if not for two close losses to Clemson and Stanford, the champions of the ACC and Pac-12, respectively. 

Instead, they will have to settle for proving how far they have come since getting blown out by Alabama in the BCS National Championship Game following the 2012 season. 

They will also try to square the all-time series with Ohio State at 3-3. 

Notre Dame has won both its bowl games since being crushed by the Crimson Tide, but those were lower-profile games. 

The last victory in one of the major bowls for Notre Dame was Jan. 1, 1994, a 24-21 decision against Texas A&M. 

"I think we always enjoy -- and you can tell by our regular-season schedule let alone who we've matched up against in bowl games -- we like to measure ourselves against the premiere programs in the country," Denbrock said Monday.