Notre Dame Football Primer: #5 Irish travel to #2 Ohio State

It is a top-five showdown in Columbus as Marcus Freeman, and the Fighting Irish hit the road to take on the Ohio State Buckeyes.

Notre Dame Football will play at Ohio State for the first time since 1995. The Buckeyes enter the matchup heavily favored and are one of the top picks to win the national championship this year. Although the Irish enter this meeting as the #5 team in the country, no one is giving Marcus Freeman’s team a chance. Can Coach Freeman provide the program the win they desperately need? Fans will find out Saturday Night under the lights.

Essential Game Info:

  • Game Time: Saturday, September 3rd at 7:30 PM ET on ABC
  • Location: Ohio Stadium, Columbus, Ohio
  • Matchup History: Notre Dame is 2-4 all-time against the Ohio State Buckeyes (Last Meeting 2016: Ohio State won 44 to 28)
  • Current Odds: Ohio State -17.0

Ohio State Details:

  • Conference: Big Ten (East Division)
  • Head Coach: Ryan Day
  • 2021 Record: 11-2
  • 2020 Record: 7-1

Weather Forecast

The current GameDay forecast shows a 10% chance of rain with a high of 84 degrees and a low of 61.

Ohio State Storylines:

Ohio State anticipates a bounce-back season. Although the Buckeyes finished 11-2 with a Rose Bowl victory, they did not beat Michigan, win the Big Ten, or win a national championship. Nevertheless, Ryan Day is eager to return to the College Football Playoffs, and many experts anticipate they will face Alabama for the national title.

Heisman candidate CJ Stroud leads the Buckeye Offense. Last fall, in only his first season as the starting quarterback, Stroud went 317 for 441 (72%) with 4,435 passing yards, 44 passing touchdowns, and six interceptions. On the ground, Stroud had 32 attempts for -20 rushing yards and no rushing touchdowns (the 13 sacks he took last year are included).

There are several names to look out for on the Buckeye Offense. The rushing attack is led by running back TreVeyon Henderson. In 2021, Henderson had 183 attempts for 1,248 yards (7 yards per carry) with 15 rushing touchdowns. Ohio State also has the best wide receiver room in the country with projected starters Jaxon Smith-Njiba, Julian Fleming, and Marvin Harrison Jr.

Notre Dame Storylines:

Do the Irish have a chance to pull off an upset? If Oregon and Michigan were able to knock off Ohio State last fall, there is no reason Notre Dame cannot do so. The Buckeyes will be even better than last year, but Notre Dame has a better team than the Wolverines or Ducks in 2021.

Tyler Buchner faces a significant challenge in week one. The new Notre Dame starting quarterback must use his entire skillset on the road. Buchner has a strong arm and elite rushing ability. His capacity to run in a top-five matchup like this could give the Irish opportunities against the Buckeye Defense.

Notre Dame must be dominant up front. The line of scrimmage will be vital for an Irish victory. Although preseason All-American Jarrett Patterson is a game-time decision, the Notre Dame Offensive Line has the chance to be one of the best units in college football. Establishing a running attack will be vital for controlling the ball and setting up the passing game.

Likewise, the defensive line is headlined by preseason All-American Isiah Foskey and must create pressure against superstar quarterback CJ Stroud. Notre Dame Football is built from the trenches, and the Irish need to use their size in this pivotal road game.

Head-to-Head Matchups:

Notre Dame Offense vs. Ohio State Defense: Tommy Rees is one of the best offensive minds in college football, but he lost his playmaker Kyren Williams and top receiver Kevin Austin Jr. from a year ago. The Irish know they have an elite offensive line, but utilizing their youthful speed and talent at quarterback, running back, and wide receiver will be a significant question mark.

Conversely, Ohio State’s defense struggled against the run last season and was the main reason they lost to Oregon and Michigan. However, the Buckeyes brought in defensive coordinator Jim Knowles from Oklahoma State and are poised not to make the same mistakes again.

There are too many question marks for the Notre Dame Offense. This matchup is a tie.

Advantage: Tie

Ohio State Offense vs. Notre Dame Defense: Alongside Alabama, Ohio State has one of the best offenses in the country. CJ Stroud is a Heisman favorite, and he will be one of the top quarterbacks taken in the 2023 NFL Draft.

Al Golden and the Fighting Irish Defense will have their work cut out for them. The national media forgets this Notre Dame Defense returns countless players from a year ago, and they look to build off 41 sacks in 2021.

Ohio State has the advantage in this category.

Advantage: Ohio State

Special Teams: Notre Dame will turn to kicker Blake Grupe this fall, a transfer from Arkansas State. Grupe is 64 for 86 (74%) in his college career, with his longest make coming at 50-yards. While Ohio State’s kicker, Noah Ruggles, is 39 for 48 (81%) with a career-long of 49-yards.

There is no distinct advantage on special teams.

Advantage: Tie

My Prediction:

College football is finally back, and the Fighting Irish will be a part of a rare top-five matchup in week one. From the start, Marcus Freeman can change Notre Dame’s “Big-Game” narrative. Everyone across the country will pick Ohio State, and many will favor the Buckeyes by several scores.

Ohio State is #2 for a reason, and they return a core group of players. However, people forget Notre Dame brings back a talented team and is #5. The Irish finished 11-2 last year, and the two losses were both from self-inflicted mistakes.

I have the Ohio State Buckeyes winning at home by 11-points. Now, Notre Dame has a better chance than the media is giving them. If the Irish can establish a rushing attack and prevent big plays on defense, this game could be decided late in the 4th quarter. That said, I will be traveling to Ohio Stadium on Saturday to cheer on my beloved Irish from the stands in hopes they can pull off perhaps the most significant victory during my Notre Dame fandom.

Prediction: Ohio State 38 Notre Dame 27

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  1. ND at tOSU on ABC. ND 16.5% chance of winning; minus 17.5 pts

    Or……….Utah at Florida On ESPN. Utes with 48% chance; minus 3,
    and just get the ugly scoring updates on the chyron.

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