Frankie V’s Prediction: Can Notre Dame Slay Goliath in Columbus?

Notre Dame kicks off its 2022 football season in 24 hours on the road against the #2 ranked Ohio State Buckeyes. Marcus Freeman makes his regular season debut against his alma mater, and the Irish usher in a new starting quarterback. The Irish enter the contest as heavy underdogs with no one giving them a chance at the upset, but do they have a chance?

What Worries Me This Week

First start of Tyler Buchner’s career. It’s not ideal that Tyler Buchner’s first career start comes on the road, in the Horseshoe. Buchner got some experience playing on the road in a hostile environment last year in Blacksburg, but Blacksburg is not Columbus, and Virginia Tech isn’t Ohio State. This is a whole different beast.

Buchner will eventually be a great quarterback for Notre Dame, but there will likely be some bumps on the road along the way. Unfortunately, one of those bumps could be Saturday night. Now, it could not, and Buchner could avoid the kind of mistakes most young quarterbacks make in the same situation, but there’s reason to worry about having your QB making their first career start in a game like this.

Ohio State’s wide receivers. Ohio State has one of the most talented rosters in the country, but the one position that is the most problematic for the Irish is wide receiver. The Buckeyes have one of the best wide receiver corps in the country – maybe the best in the country. Notre Dame’s secondary is better than many give it credit for heading into the season, but there are very few secondaries equipped to contain the Ohio State receivers.

Add in a Heisman candidate at quarterback in CJ Stroud, and the Buckeyes pose one of the most formidable tasks for the Irish defense in a while – on pair with the matchup the Irish faced against Alabama in the Cotton Bowl two years ago.

It will be interesting to see how Notre Dame utilizes their young corners and how short of a hook Freeman and Al Golden have for the upperclassmen if they struggle early. The last memory of Clarence Lewis in the Fiesta Bowl isn’t a positive one. Tariq Bracy has had his own ups and downs throughout his career.

Road test for Marcus Freeman in week 1. Like with Buchner, it’s not ideal that Freeman’s first regular season game as head coach of the Fighting Irish is on the road against the 2nd ranked Buckeyes. Freeman’s first game in the Fiesta Bowl was a mixed bag. Hopefully, he learned from the mistakes in the Fiesta Bowl, but it’s still a tall task for any rookie head coach.

What Doesn’t Worry Me This Week\

Summer bulletin board material from Marcus Freeman. Freeman got himself in a bit of a pickle over the summer with some comments he made about academics at Ohio State and other schools that we will undoubtedly hear about during the telecast on Saturday night, but once the game kicks off, the bulletin board material won’t matter much. It won’t impact the game’s outcome in any way, either. If Ohio State does what many think they will – beat the Irish handily – it won’t be because Freeman provided the Buckeyes any bulletin board material.

Notre Dame in the trenches on either side of the ball. If Notre Dame is going to pull off the biggest upset in recent program history, it will be because of the talent the Irish have along both lines. Even with Jarrett Patterson questionable for the Irish OL, Notre Dame is deep and talented along both fronts.

For Notre Dame to have a chance on Saturday night, the Irish must hit Ohio State in the mouth early and out-physical them. Notre Dame can’t win a track meet with Ohio State, and if the game turns into a shootout, the odds of an Irish upset drop drastically as well. However, if Notre Dame can control both lines of scrimmage, they will have a chance.

Between Rylie Mills, Jayson Ademilola, and Isaiah Foskey, the Irish have some dudes who can cause problems for the Ohio State OL. Throw in versatile players like Marist Luidfau and Jordan Botelho, who will line up all over, and the Irish front can change the narrative of the game.

Offensively, I don’t expect Notre Dame to come out and run the ball 40 times, but the Notre Dame offensive line will open up some holes and give the Irish running backs opportunities to make plays. They will provide Buchner ample time to take shots downfield as well. Whether or not Buchner connects on those shots and whether or not the Irish backs can break off a long run or two will determine if Notre Dame is in this one late.

Players to Watch

  • Tyler Buchner – This one should be obvious, but watch Buchner’s turnover total. Notre Dame can maybe survive one turnover from Buchner, but that’s the absolute max.
  • Jarrett Patterson – Will he won’t he play? We probably won’t know til kickoff. But, if he doesn’t, Andrew Kristofic should be more than a capable fill-in.
  • Lorenzo Styles – Notre Dame needs styles to make a big play or two to have a chance at the upset, whether it be in the passing game or on some sort of designed run.
  • Marist Liufau – After not seeing him play last year, it’s just going to be great to finally get to see him back out there.
  • Jayden Thomas – Thomas went from basically unplayable in the Fiesta Bowl to a starter on the depth chart. Thomas can be an x-factor for Notre Dame with all of the attention Michael Mayer and Styles get.
  • Audric Estime – Estime is the kind of back that can wear a defense down, and it will be interesting to see how much Notre Dame uses him.
  • Joe Wilkins – He made a remarkable recovery from his foot injury, so any contribution he can give is a bonus.
  • Prince Kollie – How much will Kollie be in the rotation at linebacker? I’m intrigued to find out.

Prediction Time

There is no logical reason to expect a Notre Dame victory. However, that doesn’t mean that it’s impossible for Notre Dame to win, as many in the media are portraying it heading into the game. Ohio State has more talent from top to bottom, but the Irish have the kind of team that can upset a more talented team. Until I see Buchner in action as the starter and Freeman with more experience, I’m just not ready to make that much of a bold prediction. I think this game will be closer than the 17.5-point spread, but I think Notre Dame ultimately comes up short on the road.

Notre Dame 31, Ohio State 38

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  1. I think Buckners scrambling ability may allow the Irish to stay in the game. The OSU defense may allow several big plays for the Irish. It won’t be more than 6 points difference no matter who wins. Go Irish@

  2. Kelly did a horrible job of preparing Buchner for this game today. Plenty of opportunities to let the kid pass the ball late in games last year. Notre Dame keeps this game close in the first half only to worn down and get blown out late in second half. 52-23

    1. I think the defense may keep the Irish in a close game late in the 4th quarter. How the defense stunts the OSU offense and how it covers the speedy receivers is the key. Hopefully the difference turns into Buckner’s scrambling and running ability.

    2. Rees like Kelly has a terrible offensive game plan.More high school offense and being shut out by a terrible Ohio State defense.Can’t move the ball and the defense gives up a big play touchdown

      1. Design 30-40 passing plays for a rookie QB in a loud, hostile stadium with less than 2.8 seconds to release the ball.

      1. You best get your eyes tested…….forget the summer, make-work rankings. ND is not a deserving top 10 team, and tOSU might well turn out to be, depending on how badly they destroy michigan..

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