The first regular season game of the Marcus Freeman era was already going to be big enough – a road game against a top 10 opponent that just so happened to be Freeman’s alma mater. Yesterday it got even bigger with the announcement that the game would be ABC’s primetime matchup and that the ESPN Gameday crew will be making the trip to Columbus for the weekend.
There was some chatter over the last few months that maybe this game would be on FOX as part of their Big Ten “Big Noon Kickoff” ala last year’s contest with Wisconsin at Soldier Field. Alas, the game will be on ABC with Ohio State alum Kirk Herbstreit providing commentary alongside Chris Fowler’s play-by-play.
Night games on the road against marque opponents have been a problem for Notre Dame for the last 20 years or so other than that magical trip to Norman in 2012 when the Irish smacked the Sooners. Outside of that, there are nightmares like 2017 Miami and 2019 Michigan and even more close but still brutal losses like 2017 Stanford, 2015 Clemson, 2016 Texas, and 2019 Georgia. Notre Dame has beat some quality teams along the way on the road at night like the Gameday matchup with Temple in 2015, Virginia Tech in 2018, and Michigan State in 2017; but in large night games on the road versus elite teams haven’t been kind on the Irish.
Notre Dame has a total of four wins over top 10 teams on the road since 2000. Oklahoma and Michigan State in 2012, Michigan in 2005, and Tennessee in 2004. Two of those four were night games. They’ve lost 12 such games including their last four.
Freeman has his work cut out for himself in his first regular-season contest as head coach of the Fighting Irish. Outsiders will not be expecting the Irish, who are a nearly two-touchdown underdog already, to be competitive in the contest, but considering all of the hype and optimism surrounding his hire, Notre Dame fans will be expecting the Irish to be, at minimum, more competitive than they have in past such instances.
Assuming Tyler Buchner is the starting quarterback for the Irish, he’ll now make his first career start on the road, at night, in a raucous environment. The last time Buchner played on the road in primetime was in Blacksburg, Virginia when he sparked a stagnant Irish offense in the first half before turning the ball over a couple of times and subsequently getting benched.
Notre Dame is 1-1 all-time on the road versus the Buckeyes with the most recent contest taking place in 1995 when the Bobby Hoying, Eddie George, and Terry Glenn led Ohio State offense put up 45 on the Irish in 45-26 loss. Notre Dame has lost four straight to Ohio State dating back to that game.