Game Preview: Ohio State vs Notre Dame

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This game has been circled since the last years Ohio State win against the Fight Irish in Columbus 21-10, a game where Ohio State wanted to prove they were a physical team after hearing all offseason in 2022 that they were not physical. A game where Marvin Harrison Jr became the top receiver for Ohio State after Jaxon Smith-Njigba was injured in the first half. This year’s version of the game with new faces in key positions, most notable at the quarterback role. Welcome to the big stage Kyle McCord and Sam Hartman. This will arguably be the biggest game for both teams, and although it is one-third of the way into the season after this week, this game might be one of the most important games for the College Football Playoff. 
Like in years past, the loser is not eliminated from the conversation, but the climb back up will take the rest of the season to get there. For Ohio State, a win will help bring confidence to Kyle McCord who will be playing his 5th collegiate start, and the first road game with meaning. A loss will not take them out of the conversation, but the Buckeyes will have to win out and win the Big Ten Championship to put themselves in a position to make the playoff.
For Notre Dame, a win will be a relief for the team, and could give them confidence as they finish the next few weeks against ranked teams including a home match up against Caleb Williams and the USC Trojans before getting their first bye week. It will also give them a little wiggle room if they do lose to USC, or potentially Clemson in November, and keep their chances high for the playoff. A loss would mean they would need to win out, and without a conference championship, would need to have some shake ups and help the try and make their third College Football Playoff appearance. 
There is not much that needs to be said about this game to bring the juice. A 7:30pm kick under the lights, and a top 10 match up between two blue-bloods of the sport, this is what makes college football great. 

Lets get hype!

Know the Opponent:

Head Coach: Marcus Freeman (2nd season)
2023 Record: 4-0
Location: South Bend, IN
Conference: Independent

Ohio State Preview

The first two games this season, Ohio State was working our their quarterback battle between Kyle McCord and Devin Brown, while leaning on their defense to make sure the games didn’t get out of hand during their experiment. As a result, the first game against Indiana, and the second game against Youngstown State, this offense did not look anything like the 2022 version, even with the same skill position players, but the output did not match the expectation. Finally, against Western Michigan, they responded after a fumble on their second drive, and took care of business and looked like the high scoring offense Ryan Day is known by. There is not shortage of playmakers on offense, and with the way the team has rotated, everyone should be healthy and rested as you can after 3 games into the season. Notre Dame’s defensive line will be a challenge for this new offensive line that is still gelling at tackle, but the way the game ended against Western Kentucky, there is a chance they are finally going in the right direction. 
Kyle McCord was near perfect last week, and has passed for 815 yards for the season, passing for nearly 70% completion rate. He has 6 touchdowns, and 1 interception on the season. Devin Brown might get a chance to play in this game too depending on the situation, and has 139 passing yards with 1 touchdown and 1 interception, both of which happened against Western Kentucky.
TreVeyon Henderson is the lead running back, and the rotation is proving to be helping that group stay healthy. He has 30 carries for 191 yards and 4 touchdowns. Chip Trayanum has 19 carries for 133 yards with 1 touchdown. Miyan Williams is the next leading rusher with 18 carries for 73 yards and 2 touchdowns. 
Marvin Harrison Jr is the lead receiver with 14 catches for 304 yards and 3 touchdowns. Cade Stover is the next leading receiver with 10 catches for 188 yards. Emeka Egbuka is the 3rd leading receiver with 12 catches for 167 yards and 3 touchdowns. 

Notre Dame Preview

Notre Dame is off to a perfect 4-0 this season with wins against Navy (in Dublin, Ireland), Tennessee State, NC State, and Central Michigan. For the first time since 1900, Notre Dame scored 40 or more points in its first four games to open a season. This week, the ramp up in competition as it will increase significantly hosting Ohio State, who are a better talent level than the previous four opponents, and then will play Duke, Louisville, and USC before getting their first bye week. They have played the most football of any team this season, and there could be a chance for how much that will play into their health going into this game. Adrenaline though will be running high for both teams, and the Fighting Irish have a chance to make a statement win that can help propel them to the top 5 and a chance to put themselves in the College Football Playoff discussion early. Marcus Freeman is in his second full season with Notre Dame, and has stepped up this year from last year so far this season. 

Sam Hartman came in from Wake Forest, and has been the marquee player for this Notre Dame team, and his years of experience has helped progress an new offense this season. He has passed for 1061 yards with 13 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. He is passing for an impressive 71% completion rate, and has only been sacked 4 times. He has scrambled around to make plays this year, but even with his 12 rushes, he has a loss of 7 yards on the year, but two of those went for touchdowns. 
Audric Estime has been the running back with 63 carries for 521 yards and 5 touchdowns. Jeremiyah Love is the second best running back with 18 carries for 119 yards and 1 touchdown. The third running back is Gi’Bran Payne who has 19 carries for 76 yards. 
The ball is spread around pretty evenly for the receivers, with their top receiver Chis Tyree catching 8 passes for 216 yards and 2 touchdowns. Jayden Thomas is their next leading receiver with 12 catches for 188 yards and 1 touchdown. Tobias Merriweather is the next leading receiver with 5 catches for 131 yards and 2 touchdown. The next favorite target has been Jaden Greathouse who has 3 touchdowns on 10 catches for 126 yards.
Some notable tidbits about home games for Notre Dame against ranked opponents – Notre Dame has not played a ranked matchup at home since the No. 4 Fighting Irish beat No. 1 Clemson 47-40 Nov. 7, 2020. Notre Dame has not lost a ranked matchup at home since the No. 24 Fighting Irish fell to No. 15 Georgia 20-19 Sept. 9, 2017.

Buckeye Spotlight

Denzel Burke. The junior defensive back might be the 2nd best player on the team behind Marvin Harrison Jr. He already has an interception on the season, and has been great in coverage on his 1 on 1’s the first 3 games of the season. Between Chris Tyree and Jayden Thomas, the Buckeyes will need to put their best player on one of those guys to cover, and Burke has stepped up this year to prove he is the right man for the job. 

Fighting Irish Spotlight

Sam Hartman. This one should not come as a surprise, as the Heisman-candidate quarterback been just what the offense needed after Notre Dame lost their OC and starting quarterback last year to Alabama (which might be for the better in hindsight). The best chance Notre Dame has to win this game will be behind Hartman’s arm. 

Water Cooler Stat of the Game

1996. The last time Ohio State last played in South Bend in was in 1996 as the No. 4 team in the country, beating No. 5 Notre Dame 29-16 in the third game of the season. For two of the most storied programs in the country, this is the third time these two team have played a home and home series.


For Ohio State, the key will be which version of the team will show up in this game. Will it be the offense that struggled to get a push at the line of scrimmage on offense, or will it be the one we saw for the last 3 quarters against Western Kentucky where they stretched the field, got chunk yards, and let their playmakers make plays. Going on the road to start against Indiana is one thing, but there will be a difference in crowd noise in South Bend than they found in Bloomington, which was a pro-Ohio State crowd. Notre Dame is looking to prove their first 4 games are not a fluke, and actually are a contender for the playoff by letting Sam Hartman sling the ball around the field to make the best play with his receivers. The difference though between their first 4 games, and this one, is the gap at talent level, and although they played Ohio State last year, the defense is a step up, and the offense with the exception of the offensive line is one year more experienced and polished. This game will be a game where the final score matters less than who wins, and I think the Buckeyes will make a statement win on the road and go into their bye week 4-0.

Ohio State 35 – Notre Dame 17

Photo Credit – Wikipedia

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