The college football season is in full swing, and the week one action is superb. A marquee matchup between two top five teams in primetime on Saturday should be a fun one to watch. There are playoff implications on the line as the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame travel to Columbus to take on the Ohio State Buckeyes. Grab your popcorn and favorite beverage, and buckle up for the best time of year; it’s college football season!
When/Where/How to Watch:
September 3rd, 6:30 pm CDT on ABC: # 5 Notre Dame @ #2 Ohio State from Ohio Stadium (The Shoe). Seating capacity of 102,780. This game will be a significant barometer for both teams as two top-five teams face off in an early-season showdown. ESPN’s football power index gives the Buckeyes an %83.5 chance to beat the Irish. Ohio State is coming off an 11-2 season, including a Rose Bowl victory over Utah. The Buckeyes missed an opportunity to make the college football playoffs with a late-season loss to conference rival Michigan. Notre Dame posted an 11-2 record and ended its season with a Fiesta Bowl loss to Oklahoma State, 35-37. The Irish have a new head coach in Marcus Freeman after Brian Kelly departed for LSU.
What to Know about the Buckeyes
Head coach Ryan Day is 34-4 in five years at Ohio State, including a 2-1 record in bowl games. Heisman candidate CJ Stroud threw for 4,435 yards, 44 TDs, and six interceptions in 2021. Slot receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba had over 1,600 yards receiving and nine touchdowns last season. Running back TreVeyon Henderson ran for 1,248 yards and had 15 touchdowns for an explosive offense that was first in scoring averaging 45.7 points per game and accumulating over 560 yards of total offense per game.
Defensively the Buckeyes allowed 22.8 points per game in 2021 and will benefit from Oklahoma State transfer Tanner McCalister. The senior safety recorded 43 tackles and an interception as a junior last season for the Cowboys. The Buckeyes will look to improve upon its run defense which gave up 297 yards and six touchdowns against Michigan in a late-season loss that ended their playoff hopes.
What to Know about the Irish
Notre Dame enters the season with a new head coach, a new defensive coordinator, and a new quarterback. Former defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman was promoted to head coach when Brian Kelly took the LSU job. Al Golden was brought in as the defensive coordinator for the Irish. Golden has been a head coach twice (Temple and Miami) and was most recently the linebackers coach for the Cincinnati Bengals.
QB1 for the Irish will be Tyler Buchner. Buchner appeared in 10 games for Notre Dame last season as a freshman, throwing for 298 yards, 3 TDs, and three ints. He also ran for 363 yards and three touchdowns. Tight end Michael Mayer will be the number one target for Buchner. Mayer had 840 yards receiving and seven touchdowns last season, and the 6’4” 249 lb junior has a shot to be the best tight end in the country. Running back Chris Tyree ran for five touchdowns and 718 yards last season and will be the featured back for the offense this season. Notre dame was 20th out of 130 teams in scoring offense last season at 35.2 points per game. The team averaged 426.7 yards offensively in 2021.
The Irish return a pair of talented corners in Cam Hart, with two interceptions, and Clarence Lewis, with one interception and a forced fumble. Joining the defensive backfield is transfer safety Brandon Joseph who had three interceptions as a sophomore at Northwestern in 2021. The linebackers for the Irish should be a strength for the team as leading tackler JD Bertrand returns for his junior year. Bertrand had 102 tackles, 6.5 tackles for a loss, and a forced fumble in 2021. Hybrid backer Jack Kiser had two interceptions returned for touchdowns, a pair of forced fumbles, and 45 tackles last season. The Irish defense gave up an average of 360.5 yards per game during their 11-2 campaign last season.
Now that all the preliminaries are out of the way, what should we expect when these two blue-bloods of college football meet on Saturday night and who will win this early season showdown between two of the top five teams in the nation? The Ohio State offense should roll early with a wealth of experience returning from the 2021 season. CJ Stroud will make an early case for the Heisman as he leads his team to multiple scores in the first half. The Irish defense will figure out how to slow down the offense of the Buckeyes in the second half. Offensively the Irish will start slowly with an inexperienced quarterback. The offense will pick up steam as a steady diet of the run game with Buchner and Tyree wear down the d-line of Ohio State. The Irish will score late to make the score respectable but Ohio State is to much for the Irish in this early season matchup.
Prediction: The atmosphere of “the shoe” and the experience of Ohio State will be too much for the Irish to overcome. Marcus Freeman has created a culture of excitement for the program and has proven to be an excellent recruiter. The Irish are still 1-2 years away from being a legitimate playoff team. Ohio State is in an excellent position this season with a loaded offense led by CJ Stroud and a solid defense. Ohio State should make the college football playoffs and advance to the championship game. Next year might be a different story but Ohio State takes care of business at “The Shoe!” Ohio State 34 Notre Dame 21