Notre Dame has opened up recent seasons in both memorable places and against some blue programs in recent years with trips to Florida State, Louisville, and Texas in recent years while home openers have included bouts with Michigan and Texas both as well.
No opener in recent Notre Dame memory will have drawn the attention this game draws Saturday however as the Irish hit the road to Columbus to take on No. 2 Ohio State. Despite the close proximity it is only the seventh meeting all-time between the midwest powerhouses, with Ohio State having a 4-2 edge all-time.
Obviously Ohio State is loaded again as they’re one of the premier programs in all of college football. What does Notre Dame have waiting for them Saturday night?
1 of 10: Ohio State's offense
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NS: Ohio State has what appears on paper to be as good of offense as there is in college football. What is the unit’s relative weakness or two?
PH: You’d normally think that a unit that lost two receivers to the first round of the NFL draft would be it, but that’s not the case. The receiving corps, led by Jaxon Smith-Njigba will be deep and talented again. Instead, it has to be whether or not the offensive line can be physical enough to open up holes in the running game. At times that was an issue against the better defensive lines, and that’s what OSU will be facing with Notre Dame. The unit is a good and veteran one, but it still has to show a mean streak and improvement from last season.
2 of 10: Star Quarterback C.J. Stroud
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NS: Where is C.J. Stroud on the list of recent great Buckeyes signal callers and what makes him special/unique? Does he have any weaknesses?
PH: He might be the best of them. In fact, if you listen to NFL scouts, they think Stroud is better than Fields, Haskins, and any that has come through the program recently. The weakness, if you want to call it that, is the hesitancy to pull the ball down and run when given the opportunity. He can have a tendency to hold onto the ball too long looking for the big play rather than taking open running lanes that are available when the pass rush gets upfield.
3 of 10: Ohio State on Defense
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NS: Ohio State’s defense doesn’t get anywhere near the hype that the offense gets. What needs to be known about the Buckeyes on D?
PH: This has been the biggest emphasis over the offseason. Ryan Day made wholesale changes on the coaching staff, and new defensive coordinator Jim Knowles is tasked with turning things around. During spring and fall ball, it’s clear that this Buckeye defense is going to be a more varied and aggressive unit than the one that tried to remain assignment sound in the past. It’s a significant shift, and it was clear that the defense gave the OSU offense fits at times during camp. We’ll see if it translates to the field.
4 of 10: Differences between Day and Meyer
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NS: Under Ryan Day it seems the program took another step (yes I know Meyer won a title and Day hasn’t) but Meyer was good to lose a game that made no sense for Ohio State to lose each year. How has Ohio State seemed to eliminate that under Day?
PH: That’s a great question. For me, I think Day sees the big picture better and isn’t afraid to make the more difficult decisions with personnel. Meyer often had too much loyalty to players and coaches that didn’t always produce the best result he could have. Yes, there’s a national title in there, but with all of that talent he had, I still say he should have won more titles during the seven years. Day is a players coach but has made several moves both in-season and out with discipline and accountability in mind to continually look for more.
5 to 10: How Ohio State has recently been beaten
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NS: Has there been a common theme in Ohio State’s few losses in recent years and how do those apply to the 2022 Buckeyes?
PH: For sure. The more physical teams have a better shot against Ohio State in recent years. Michigan showed it last season, Wisconsin and Penn State seem to play more competitively, and Clemson and Alabama have been able to line up and win with talent that gets OSU into a Donnybrook.
6 of 10: What is Ohio State's biggest concern
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NS: What is OSU’s biggest concern with Notre Dame?
PH: The defensive line. The Irish have a good, physical defensive line that can stop the run and get pressure on C.J. Stroud. Michigan was able to make Ohio State one-dimensional last season and it at least slowed the offense down a bit. Despite all the talent through the air, the Buckeyes will need to be able to run the ball against Notre Dame.
7 of 10: Marcus Freeman as a player
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NS: How was Marcus Freeman viewed/received as a player at Ohio State?
PH: He was loved. He was tough and could really run to the ball. He’s lost a little of that with some of the controversial comments he’s made about his alma mater as head coach of Notre Dame, but he was a talented linebacker at a time when Ohio State had some good ones there. I think OSU fans long for that type of linebacker now.
8 of 10: Marcus Freeman as the enemy
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NS: How is Freeman viewed by the Ohio State faithful now?
PH: I alluded to it already, but there’s some hurt feelings there I think. OSU fans are a proud bunch and anytime anyone makes comments that were taken the way they were, the Buckey faithful are going to lose a little love if you will. He won’t get that warm of a reception I don’t think on Saturday.
9 of 10: Notre Dame-Ohio State on the regular?
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NS: Should Notre Dame and Ohio State play much more regularly?
PH: What? Isn’t Notre Dame joining the Big Ten (kidding of course). Yes, absolutely. Two blue-bloods from the Midwest going at it is what college football is all about. It’s a made for television matchup that fans of college football, not just regionally, can get up for. I’d love to see the two play more and was always bewiddlered about the Irish and Buckeyes not being a part of those Big Ten vs. Notre Dame matchups that seemed to be the norm for years.
10 of 10: Something Ohio State and Notre Dame fans can see eye-to-eye on
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NS: And finally, something we could talk all day about I’m sure. What is the single worst thing about the University of Michigan football program?
PH: I don’t have enough room for that in this column, but to sum it up nicely — “everything.”
NS: *nods in agreement*