Notre Dame faces off against Ohio State in a massive season-opening top-five clash. The Observer Football Beat gives their predictions.
Aidan Thomas - Sports Editor
I don’t believe this game is hopeless. Notre Dame has the pieces to make Ohio State stumble in this opening clash. A lot of things have to go right for this to become a victory. Namely, the Irish have to limit Ohio State’s top options and make them beat them elsewhere.
A successful day likely ends in Notre Dame allowing less than 30 points. They can accomplish that by generating a terrific pass rush, led by All-American senior defensive lineman Isaiah Foskey. To match those 30 points, the Irish offense needs to attack Ohio State’s weak point. At least by preseason analysis, that seems to be their linebackers. To do this, Notre Dame needs sophomore quarterback Tyler Buchner to be every bit the dual threat he is, and they need junior tight end Michael Mayer to perform at an elite level.
If all these things go right for Notre Dame, a victory is possible. But it is a lot to ask to go right in the first game of the season. Especially with a first-time head coach and first-time starting quarterback playing in one of the country’s most daunting environments. The Irish will beat the spread, but not the Buckeyes.
Ohio State 30, Notre Dame 24
Nate Moller - Senior Sportswriter
I have had this matchup circled on my calendar for years, and now that it’s finally here, I am a bit nervous. It’s a lot to ask out of a first year head coach and a new starting quarterback in Buchner to get a win under the lights in Columbus. Despite all the question marks surrounding Buchner and the wide receiving corps, I expect the Irish to move the ball and find the endzone a few times in this one.
The Irish offensive line should be much improved, which should greatly benefit Buchner’s ability to air the ball out and stretch plays out on the ground. My biggest concern, though, is the Irish secondary and the damage that C.J. Stroud and company can do through the air at any given point in the game. The Irish are only as good as their worst cornerback on the field, and the Buckeyes are going to be able to exploit that weakness multiple times Saturday night.
The Irish will be within striking distance through most of the game, but Jaxon Smith-Njigba will catch a couple of long touchdowns to give the Buckeyes a convincing week one victory.
Ohio State 41, Notre Dame 31
Madeline Ladd - Associate Sports Editor
Notre Dame is getting no respect from the Vegas oddsmakers as a 17.5 underdog. Ohio State features two Heisman Candidates with C.J. Stroud at quarterback and TreVeyon Henderson at running back. They also reload last year’s No. 1 scoring offense with one of the best wide receivers in the country in Smith-Njigba.
However, Notre Dame has strength in its defensive line with preseason All-American Foskey and a much-improved linebacking squad. The key for the ND defense will be stopping the Ohio State run and pressuring Stroud into making mistakes. The defense appears up to the challenge, however, the offense is the real question.
Can Buchner play at an elite level with minimal experience in the spotlight? We know Buchner is a threat in the run game. But does he have the pocket presence to be able to execute key passes? The receiving core lacks depth with the season-ending injury to graduate student Avery Davis. But plenty of talent still remains. The X-factor is Mayer, an All-American tight end. If he performs at that level, we could see some great things in the passing game.
The Notre Dame offense must control the clock and keep the ball out of Stroud’s hands by running the ball effectively. If they can do this, they can keep it close in the fourth quarter. But, there’s no denying that a new coaching staff, new QB, new kicker, and new punter playing in a hostile environment like The Horseshoe makes this a difficult task for the Irish. Nevertheless, if they can follow the above keys to the game, they just may be able to pull an upset no one saw coming. Just ask Oregon last year.
Ohio State 31, Notre Dame 27
Liam Coolican - Associate Sports Editor
It’s extremely rare for a team to have three legitimate Heisman contenders, but that’s what Notre Dame will have to deal with against Ohio State’s offense Saturday night. Stroud, Henderson and Smith-Njigba all have a legitimate case to be considered as the best player in the country at their respective positions.
The Irish defense figures to be among the best in football this year, but I fear they can only hope to limit the damage against the Buckeyes. If they focus on stopping the pass, Henderson could rush for 150 yards. If they key in on the run, Smith-Njigba could have a repeat of his stellar Rose Bowl performance.
Ohio State’s defense is porous, so Notre Dame shouldn’t have trouble putting points on the board. But in what will likely devolve into a shoot-out, I have to take the experienced Buckeyes offense over a quarterback who has never started a collegiate game.
Ohio State 48, Notre Dame 35
Emily DeFazio - Associate Sports Editor
This long-awaited game is a very tricky case of balancing hope with reality. Do I hope Notre Dame will pull an opening upset to their 2022 season? Yes. In reality, is that very likely to happen? Not if the 17.5-point spread has any credence.
The fact of the matter is, the Irish are going up against a powerhouse that boasts a well-oiled offense and multiple Heisman candidates. Not to mention they are doing so with a first-time starting quarterback and head coach at the helm.
This uncertainty is not to diminish what Notre Dame brings to the table. Despite any criticism, the Irish have several talented members of their squad, most notably potential first-round NFL draft picks Mayer and Foskey, that can be instrumental in the turnout of the game. But seeing as Buchner — who was unable to play in the Blue and Gold game due to injury — is just stepping into the QB1 position after having just lost a prime receiver in Davis, no matter how well Mayer performs, this game will be shaped by Foskey and the defense.
The key will be making it a pain for the Buckeyes to travel down the field, offsetting any shakiness on the Irish side of the ball. In doing so, those big plays by Mayer and the offense will be worth much more in closing the gap. But all of these pieces will have to work in tandem. If Notre Dame gains momentum on both sides of the ball at almost the same time, I can see them giving the Buckeyes more of a run for their money than they bargained for; maybe not enough to win the day, but enough to make themselves a worthy opponent.
Ohio State 31, Notre Dame 24
Mannion McGinley - Assistant Managing Editor
The take a month ago — the take that persists today — was that there’s no way the Irish can come anywhere close to the Buckeyes. Ohio State’s offensive trio would just be too much for the Irish secondary, and the Irish offense wouldn’t be able to keep up.
At this point, I think a 17.5 spread way underestimates the Irish. The sheer number of names that saw productive work in camp, the trust Freeman has in Buchner and the monster of a defensive line all add up, in my opinion, to a team that can contend with Ohio State, no questions asked. That being said, contend does not mean win, and the difference maker there will still be the Irish secondary.
The defensive line led by Foskey and graduate student Jayson Ademilola will have, without a doubt, a positive influence on this game, as will the linebacker squad. The safeties are shoring up and Cam Hart and Clarence Lewis lead a cornerback room that felt a little thin eight months ago, but with Jaden Mickey in the mix and time to strengthen as a unit, there’s no question they're better and stronger than they were in Arizona, it just won’t be enough.
That being said, the upset is still a lot to ask of the Irish in this game. I won’t say it’s out of reach because I do not believe it is but I don’t know that the Irish offense, especially with Davis’s late injury and the somewhat brand new starting squad, I don’t know that they’ll be able to do anything more than keeping up. The defense keeps it tight but the Irish fall just short.
Ohio State 28, Notre Dame 24