2022 Game Preview: Ohio State vs Notre Dame
The time between January 1st and September 3rd has felt too long, but we have finally made it to the 2022 season, and Buckeye Nation has never more ready.
This offseason has been driven with anticipation for this year’s version of the Buckeyes, who start as the number 2 ranked team in the preseason polls, and a quarterback in CJ Stroud, who is at the top of the Heisman watch list. There could be no better start than a night game in the Horseshoe against 5th ranked Notre Dame for their 7th all time clash ever between two storied programs not only in the Mid-West, but nationally, and College Game Day will make their 21st appearance in Columbus, an announcement they made all the way back in May.
HEY BUCKEYE NATION 🗣️— College GameDay (@CollegeGameDay) May 17, 2022
We're already counting down the days till Sept. 3 for @NDFootball vs. @OhioStateFB 🍿 pic.twitter.com/adsIDimff3
With a game of this magnitude, there are several story lines that help frame and shape this game.
Ohio State comes in trying to right the ship after missing the Big Ten Championship for the first time in 5 years, and the College Football Playoff after two consecutive trips, and their 4th overall.
Notre Dame promoted Marcus Freeman, a former Ohio State player, to replace Brian Kelly.
The Buckeye and Notre Dame connection has several ties. Gene Smith is a Notre Dame alum, Al Washington who was the linebacker coach for Ohio State last year, is now the defensive line coach for Notre Dame. Tony Alfred was hired to replace Stan Drayton from Notre Dame in 2015. James Laurinaitis, another Ohio State alum, is a graduate assistant for the defense.
This is the 7th game between these two teams, which Ohio State leads 4-2, and the first regular season meeting since 1996, and first meeting since 2016 Fiesta Bowl.
Ohio Stadium celebrates its 100th anniversary.
This game will honor the 2002 National Championship team for their 20th anniversary.
Know the Opponent:
Head Coach: Marcus Freeman (1st season)
2021 Record: 11-2
Location: South Bend, IN
Ohio State Preview
𝐜𝐡.𝐈 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐟𝐨𝐮𝐧𝐝𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧 🎥🔥🍿 pic.twitter.com/TWOkhnfby7— Ohio State Football (@OhioStateFB) September 1, 2022
Who doesn’t love a hype video?
For programs similar to Ohio State, each season has a goal of hoisting the National Championship Trophy in January, but for the Buckeyes, that goal seems to be a reality. The 2021 season was considered a bust by the team, and the fans, which on the outside for the next tier of programs would love to have: a 11-2 season with a Rose Bowl victory. Ohio State lost to Michigan for the first time since 2011, when it had an interim head coach in Luke Fickell, and its offense was still led by Jim Bollman. Anyone who walks through the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, that game and score (42 – 27) are constant reminders of what was lost last season, with the best statistical offense in the country.
Lets be clear, the Rose Bowl win was great, and there were a lot of records broken from players are are coming back, but this program knows that that was their floor, and the ceiling a championship.
What held them back last year was their defense, and that has been the biggest question entering the season. Ryan Day took the right steps and got Jim Knowles from Oklahoma State, which was a top 5 defense in the country, and let go of 80% of his defensive staff. Based on the comments from camp, the defense have been giving the Buckeye offense some fits, and that can only mean good things for Ohio State, and bad things for their upcoming opponents.
If you look at any preseason magazine or prediction, this Buckeye team is one of the favorites to not only make the College Football Playoff, but the win the National Championship, and are on a collision course to meet with Alabama for that game. As a fan, there is always some cause for concern when it comes to that expectation, and the coaches will tell you that this is one game at a time, but they know how great this team can be this year.
CJ Stroud is the betting favorite to win the Heisman over returning Heisman winner Bryce Young at Alabama. For the second time in Ryan Day’s career, he will have a returning quaterback to start the season, and Stroud has a lot of chances to break some quarterback records. Stroud was named captain by his team, and his leadership has been evident with his generosity. He had 4435 passing yards in 2021, with 44 passing touchdowns and 6 interceptions. The element of his game that fans want to see is can he use his legs when needed to help balance out the running game.
TreVeyon Henderson and Miyan Williams return as the top two running backs. Earlier in August, Evan Pryor was Dallan Hayden will be the third running back on the chart. Henderson rushed for 1248 yards with 15 touchdowns on the ground and and added 312 yards receiving with 4 touchdowns in the air. Miyan Williams had 507 yards rushing with 3 touchdowns.
Jaxon Smith-Njigba might be the best wide receiver in the country, and is coming back for his junior year after a record breaking Sophomore season, even with two first round picks in Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave sharing the ball. He had 1606 yards receiving and 9 touchdowns, which most of those came from the last half of the year. The question mark is who will fill in for the two wide receivers, and the belief is that Marvin Harrison Jr, and Julian Fleming will be filling in those spots. The expectations are high for a receiver room that is the deepest talent room in the country, and it is easy to believe in Ryan Day’s offense with Brian Hartline’s coaching.
Notre Dame Preview
Marcus Freeman returns to Columbus, but will be standing on the opposing sideline as he leads the 5th ranked Fighting Irish in his first regular season game as a head coach. Freeman replaces Brian Kelly, who was in South Bend for 13 seasons before leaving in take the LSU head coach opening before the 2021 season ended, and for Notre Dame fans, they seem to be embracing this change. From the media, to the players, Freeman is lauded as an authentic coach who knows how to recruit and talk to high school and college players. At the moment, the future looks bright for the Irish, as they have a top 5 recruiting class for 2023, and 11 top 200 commitments. But that group of talent is not on campus yet, and the 2022 team will be looking to establish their identity.
Tyler Buchner was named the starter for the Fighting Irish, and he will give the Buckeye defense some fits as a dual-threat quarterback. In 2021, behind Jack Coan, he had 298 yards passing with 3 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. On the ground, he rushed for 336 yards as the teams 2nd leading rusher with 3 touchdowns. This will be a big stage to make his first real start in a game of this magnitude.
The running back room is where the Irish have the most concerns, as they will want to try and establish the running game as part of their offensive game plan. Established is junior running back Chris Tyree, but he has not been a running back that has been able to help with creating long drives. Audric Estime has been getting a lot of buzz in camp, and is expected to have more that 10 carries.
Wide Receiver depth has been an issue as well. The Irish lost wide receiver Avery Davis, who suffered a season-ending torn ACL in his right knee in August. They will be relying on Braden Lenzy and Lorenzo Styles, who are the only receivers on their team that have caught more than 20 passes in a season. The main target though for Buchner will be Michael Mayer, who is one of the best tight ends in the country.
Ohio State defense. This might be a cop out, and it could easily be any pick of CJ Stroud, TreVeyon Henderson, or Jaxon Smith-Njigba, but the most talked about unit this offseason is the defense, and everyone wants to see what steps that have made from the 2020 and 2021 version of itself when it was led by Kerry Coombs. This defense will be a “Safety-driven” defense, and you can expect their to be a safety who will be keyed on Mayer.
Notre Dame Spotlight
Michael Mayer. Notre Dame enters this game with a lot of injuries in skill positions, and it will be up to Mayer and potentially Lorenzo Styles to help Tyler Buchner out to attack the Buckeye defense. If the Fight Irish have any hope of winning this game, it will be because they can sustain drives and score points to keep up with the potent offense of the Buckeyes.
Water Cooler Stat of the Game
14. Between these two storied programs, they both have 7 Heisman Trophy winners for a total of 14 Heismans. No other school has more than these two teams in the country. This is significant because this game could start the Heisman campaign for a player, and lead them to an 8th Heisman winner.
According to the polls, this is a top 5 matchup, and the first time ever Ohio State opens up the season in a top 5 battle. Notre Dame enters the Horseshoe with first year head coach, and former Buckeye Marcus Freeman, with a depleted roster on offense. Ohio State enters this season after a down year, an 11-2 season with a Rose Bowl victory, but they know the expectations of what this years versions has with National Championship aspirations. CJ Stroud will get a chance to show his growth as a leader, and runner, in the game, while the defense attacks a young quarterback in Tyler Buchner who has only one real threat with tight end Michael Mayer (who gave the Ohio State fans some bulletin board material. Game Day, Jack Harlow, and LeBron will be here for this week one clash, but only the Buckeyes deliver to the hype.