Marcus Freeman has a chance to build his legacy in year two as head coach. As always, the Fighting Irish will face one of the most demanding schedules in college football. Ohio State and USC are projected as the top-ranked opponents. Last fall, Notre Dame used home-field advantage to dominate Clemson Tigers.
Will the Irish host multiple “Top-Ten” opponents?
After visiting the Buckeyes and Trojans on the road last year, the Fighting Irish will get to host them in their backyard in 2023. Ironically, early last season Notre Dame played better on the road, but they did figure it out at home against Clemson and Boston College in November.
Not to say Notre Dame does not have a tough road schedule, but Ohio State and USC are two of the highest projected teams to make the College Football Playoffs this season (currently four teams). Marcus Freeman must take his team to Clemson in November to face the revenge-minded Clemson Tigers led by former 5-Star quarterback Cade Klubnik and new Offensive Coordinator Garrett Riley.
The Irish will also travel to NC State early in the year and face offensive-minded Jeff Brohm in his first season at Louisville. As always, these teams already have Notre Dame circled on their calendars.
Ohio State Buckeyes
This will be the rematch of a Home and Home series between these two programs. Last fall, the Irish had a halftime lead but lost 21 to 10 against the Buckeyes. Ohio State lost a classic game against the eventual national champion Georgia Bulldogs in the College Football Playoffs (the Semifinal was essentially the National Championship, with Georgia annihilating TCU).
Notre Dame has already announced this matchup as a “Green Out,” and it will be interesting to see how much green versus red will be in the stands. Ohio State is an enormous school with a large student base and alumni fanbase who have not had the opportunity to visit Notre Dame Stadium to see their team play since 1996. I am willing to bet they will pay just about anything to go to this matchup.
Ohio State fans can say whatever they want about this meeting, but I was at Ohio Stadium to watch the Irish play last year. Fans in my section only stood up a few times at the most. Meanwhile, the stadium was quiet for most of the contest.
Conversely, I was at the Notre Dame Clemson game last year in South Bend. I only remember sitting down a few timeout breaks, and I was nowhere near the student section. It will be respectable if there is red like the Cincinnati Bearcats had back in 2021, but I hope it differs from Georgia in 2017.
This may be the biggest Notre Dame USC matchup since the historic 2005 game in South Bend. After USC defeated the Fighting Irish last season in Los Angeles, this rivalry is finally back where it should be. I am not worried about there being much red in the stands for this showdown since Trojan fans can visit South Bend every other year.
There will be more hype for this game as Caleb Williams painted his fingernails to say explicit language against the University of Notre Dame last season. I hope that social media will remind Notre Dame fans all week leading up to this matchup.
I will admit that the Trojans were more physical than I thought they would be last season, but the overarching difference was that USC had Caleb Williams, and Notre Dame had Drew Pyne. The Irish Quarterback gave all he had for Notre Dame Football, but this year the Irish will have a Heisman-caliber quarterback of their own with Sam Hartman.
I want to see how the referee’s call holds in this matchup. Last year, the Notre Dame defensive line dominated USC, but the Trojans got away with countless holding calls. Some were more explicit than others, with Caleb Williams running dozens of yards behind the line of scrimmage and then running forward, but somehow no holding calls.
Will there be multiple top-ten matchups in South Bend? The home slate is headlined by great matchups with the Ohio State Buckeyes, whom the Irish have lost five straight games against, and their top rival, the USC Trojans, who bring back the best quarterback in the country.
Home-field advantage only matters if Irish fans show up and support their team. As I referenced earlier, Notre Dame fans provided one of the best environments in the country last fall for the Clemson beatdown in South Bend.
I do not know about the other 78,000 seats in the stands, but I guarantee at least two seats will be covered in green. I have already purchased my tickets for both games and will support the Irish in person. Matchups like these do not come along often, more less two in a single season. This is what college football is all about.