The college football season ended less than two weeks ago so it’s only natural that I’m already thinking about the start of the upcoming season. While some people are wondering what the Ohio State defense will look like, and others are looking at who is going to step up at wide receiver to compliment Jaxon Smith-Njigba, I feel like I have my finger on the pulse of the most pressing matter heading into the 2022 season. What day the Ohio State season opener should be played.
There have been interesting season openers recently for Ohio State, but there might not be one in school history that is as eagerly anticipated as the clash with Notre Dame to open up the 2022 season. This will be the seventh all-time meeting between the schools, with the last two of those coming in bowl games. The last time the college football powers met in the regular season came in 1996 in South Bend, a year after they met in Columbus. The Buckeyes have won the last four meetings in the series.
With games between Ohio State and Notre Dame being rare, there has been plenty of excitement for this meeting since it was announced around 37 years ago, since for some reason college football games need to be scheduled more than 3 decades in advance to set everything up. The anticipation for this game got kicked up a few more notches after what happened with the Notre Dame head coaching position.
After Brian Kelly unexpectedly decided to embrace a cajun accent and take over as head coach at LSU, former Ohio State linebacker Marcus Freeman was promoted to head coach in South Bend. Not only will Freeman be making his regular season head coaching debut, he is also bringing another Ohio State linebacker along for the ride. Freeman convinced James Laurinaitis to become an analyst on Notre Dame’s defensive coaching staff. Pretty wild that their first game together at Notre Dame will be against their alma mater.
As if that storyline wasn’t juicy enough, this will also be new defensive coordinator Jim Knowles’ debut at Ohio State. After putting together one of the best defenses in the country at Oklahoma State, Ryan Day was able to lure Knowles away from Stillwater to try and turnaround an Ohio State defense that hasn’t played up to their potential over the last two seasons.
Knowles was originally slated to try and slow down Freeman and Notre Dame offensive coordinator Tommy Rees in the Fiesta Bowl, but Knowles went on to accept Ohio State’s offer, which led to Knowles getting some time off before his duties began with the Buckeyes on January 2nd. Even though Knowles didn’t coach Oklahoma State’s defense in Arizona on New Year’s Day, he’s very familiar with what Notre Dame will try and do in Columbus in early September.
If the Buckeyes can get their defense on point early in the season, they’ll definitely be a favorite to win the national title. We saw what C.J. Stroud and Ohio State was able to do on offense in the Rose Bowl, even without talented wide receivers Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave. Stroud is again going to be a contender for the Heisman Trophy, Smith-Njigba will be in the running for the Biletnikoff Award, and Marvin Harrison Jr. had a breakout performance in the Rose Bowl against Utah to kick off the year. We also can’t forget that running back TreVeyon Henderson should be in line for an even bigger year this year now that he has a season of college football under his belt.
Currently the Sunday evening game of the Labor Day weekend schedule is the tilt between Florida State and LSU in New Orleans. Maybe like five years ago that would have been a fun game, but it has lost some of its luster. The Seminoles failed to make a bowl game in 2021, while the Tigers will be playing their first game under new head coach Brian Kelly. Even though Kelly has the tools to turn things around in Baton Rouge, the improvement isn’t going to be immediate.
While Notre Dame-Ohio State isn’t going to take a backseat to anyone on September 3rd, it would be nice if the Fighting Irish and Buckeyes got moved to the next evening just to give some of the other great matchups on Saturday more time to shine. The Saturday schedule is loaded with Oregon meeting Georgia, Utah taking on Florida, Cincinnati battling Arkansas, a number of Big Ten openers, and plenty of other games.
Another reason I’d love to see the Ohio State opener pushed back a day is so it doesn’t get the Big Noon Saturday treatment. I know the FOX noon game is going to have to be something we get used to, especially with the Big Ten and FOX likely to strengthen their deal in the coming years. It still doesn’t change the fact that noon kickoffs are the worst. Plus, a nooner in early September could be painfully hot for those in attendance.
By moving the game to Sunday evening, you are likely to get a little cooler temperature at kickoff, as well as seeing Notre Dame and Ohio State battle under the lights. Since it is Labor Day weekend, pushing the game back a day also wouldn’t likely throw a huge wrench into travel plans for fans attending the game since a lot of people have Labor Day off of work. Some other logistics might be a bit of a headache to fix, but it would be worth it when all was said and done.
Just in the last 15 years we have seen Ohio State season openers played on a Thursday and a Monday. If they can do games on those days to kickoff the season, there really is no reason they can’t play on Sunday of Labor Day weekend. It’s also not like Notre Dame hasn’t played on the Sunday night of the first full slate of the season, as they did so last year against Florida State, and a number of years ago against Texas. When you look at the TV ratings this game in that time slot could do, it makes no sense not to give the Fighting Irish-Buckeye clash the huge spotlight it truly deserves.