No. 2 Ohio State is set to kick off its season with a Top-5 matchup at home on Saturday night, as they will host No. 5 Notre Dame in a tough non-conference battle. C.J. Stroud and the Buckeyes will look to build off last year’s electric offense by hopefully pairing it with a competent defense under the tutelage of defensive coordinator Jim Knowles, while Marcus Freeman enters his first full season as the headman of the Fighting Irish needing to replace both his starting quarterback and running back from a year ago.
The Vegas odds favor Ryan Day’s squad heavily, as Ohio State begins the week as over a two-touchdown favorite in the team’s first contest of 2022. This number is likely leaning heavily on the Buckeyes’ offense, as Stroud begins the campaign as the Heisman frontrunner with wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba and running back TreVeyon Henderson at his disposal. Despite losing a pair of first-round wide receivers to the NFL Draft in Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson, Day’s offense is expected to not miss a beat with a stable of five-star wide receivers, a two-headed monster at RB with Henderson and Miyan Williams, and an offensive line that is playing its talent at the correct positions.
The defense will be the real question mark for the Buckeyes, as Day brought in Knowles as well as Perry Eliano and Tim Walton to try and fix a much maligned unit from the past few seasons. The talent is certainly there, with a trio of former five-star prospects on the defensive line in Zach Harrison, Jack Sawyer and J.T. Tuimoloau up front and a bunch of returning stars in the back seven, but it remains to be seen whether they will be finally able to put it all together after ranking 60th in the nation in total defense a year ago — a number which even feels high given how bad they looked in 2021.
Notre Dame, on the other hand, will be looking to replace both quarterback Jack Coan and running back Kyren Williams — two of the most important players on the offense a year ago. Dual-threat QB Tyler Buchner will be leading the charge for the Irish offense this season, and he will have the luxury of tossing the rock to tight end Michael Mayer. On of the nation’s top talents at the position, Mayer led the team a season ago with 71 catches for 840 yards and seven TDs. They will, however, be without wide receiver Avery Davis, who tore his ACL in the preseason, and will potentially be without guard Jarrett Patterson, who is questionable with a foot injury.
The Fighting Irish defense has some playmakers at all three levels, led by defensive end Isaiah Foskey and safety Brandon Joseph. Foskey, an edge-rusher with some first-round NFL Draft grades, led Notre Dame a year ago with 10 sacks to go along with 52 total tackles. Joseph, whom Ohio State fans will remember from his time at Northwestern, is one of the country’s premier safeties coming off a 79-tackle and three-pick season with the Wildcats. Cornerback depth is a bit of a concern, which could be a significant issue going up against a team like the Buckeyes who will certainly look to air it out.
Despite their preseason No. 5 rating, the oddsmakers are clearly not buying into the hype surrounding Notre Dame. The 17.5-point spread is quite hefty for a battle between a pair of teams ranked this highly, and it makes sense given all that the Fighting Irish lost from a year ago. Notre Dame finished last season at No. 8, and then went on to lose its starting QB and RB as well as its head coach as Brian Kelly jumped ship to LSU. This game could be closer than the spread would indicate if Ohio State’s defense continues to struggle, but if Knowles can right the ship and the Buckeyes’ offense continues to hum as expected, things could get ugly quickly.
Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.