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Ask LGHL: What the hell is Malik Zaire talking about? Honestly, he doesn’t even know.

You ask, we answer. Sometimes we ask, others answer. And then other times, we ask, we answer.

NCAA FOOTBALL: DEC 30 Music City Bowl - Notre Dame v LSU Photo by Bobby McDuffie/Icon Sportswire/Corbis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Every day for the entirety of the Ohio State football season, we will be asking and answering questions about the team, college football, and anything else on our collective minds of varying degrees of importance. If you have a question that you would like to ask, you can tweet us @LandGrant33 or if you need more than 280 characters, send an email HERE.

If you’ve been online at all this week, you’ve probably seen some of the absolutely asinine tweets that former Notre Dame and Florida quarterback Malik Zaire has been sending out about Saturday’s game between the Irish and the Buckeyes.

Zaire, who is a Kettering, Ohio native, seems to have gone out of his way to instigate arguments with everybody in Buckeye Nation. He even quote-tweeted the LGHL account (see it below) after we mockingly mimicked his over-the-top hyperbolic rhetoric. In response to us, he continued to go to new heights of idiocy talking out of both sides of his mouth (but for the record, I do think that Kyle McCord would still beat the Irish and would likely cover the spread).

So, in today’s Ask LGHL column, I am going to dig into some of Zaire’s more ludicrous comments to show that not only do I think that he’s wrong as an Ohio State fan and blogger, but I can also prove that he is wrong using actual logic, statistics, and a dash of common sense.


Question: What the hell is Malik Zaire talking about?

I know that this is the narrative that Zaire and Irish fans want to go with, but there is literally nothing concrete to base it on. Ohio State has more five-star recruits playing defensive end than Notre Dame has on its entire team. And while I am a big supporter of the belief that #StarsMatter, I can recognize that not all highly touted prospects end up being great college players and some under-appreciated high school athletes turn out to be collegiate superstars.

So, let’s compare how these two teams stacked up in 2021. Both Notre Dame and Ohio State have new defensive coordinators this season, so they are on somewhat equal footing when it comes to the unknown of what their schemes and rotations will look like this year. Jim Knowles is now running the defense for the Buckeyes and Al Golden stepped in to fill Marcus Freeman’s position when he was promoted to head coach.

Given Freeman’s fingerprints all of the ND defense, I am hesitant to believe that there will be wholesale changes on that side of the ball for the Irish, but I also recognize that you don’t bring in a coach with the experience and talent of an Al Golden if you aren’t going to let him do his thing. So, I would guess that Freeman will still have his say on defense, but Golden will be able to mold things how he sees fit.

Knowles on the other hand has systematically reshaped the defense from what was a passive, single-high safety, keep-everything-in-front-of-you approach to what we believe will be a more aggressive 4-2-5, #SafetyDrivenDefense.

While both schools have new coordinators, given the scope of their assignments, I would imagine that if either has the chance to dramatically improve their squad’s performance from last year in the first week of this new season, it would be the coach who has been given carte blanche to tailor a scheme to fit the specific talents of his players — something that his predecessors refused to do — instead of the guy who is taking over for someone who is now his boss and will undoubtedly maintain a significant influence on that side of the ball.

So, what are Knowles and Golden working with? If you listen to Zaire, you would think that the 2021 Irish was the reincarnation of the 1985 Chicago Bears and that last year’s Buckeyes were the college football equivalent of the Bad News Bears, but friends, let me tell you, Zaire is not doing either the Math or English departments at Notre Dame proud by his reading of the situation.

Was Ohio State’s defense great last year? Nope, but on the whole, they were probably better than you (and most of the crazed ND fans in our mentions this week) realize, at least from a ranking and statistical perspective.

Let’s look at the big picture first; in 2021, the Ohio State defense ranked 59th nationally in total defense giving up 372.6 yards per contest. The mighty, vaunted Fighting Irish defense was... 43rd, allowing 359.7 yards per game. Ok, that’s fine, not as good as I was led to believe, but Zaire is talking about how good their front seven is, so clearly they were much better than the Buckeyes against the run, right? ......... Right?

So, apparently, Ohio State’s rush defense was ranked 28th nationally in 2021 (126.77 ypg); the Irish’s was ranked 37 (135.46 ypg). But, maybe you’re saying to yourself, “Self, Ohio State had such a prolific offense last year, that of course teams weren’t putting up a lot of rushing yards against them, keeping their total rushing averages down.”

That would be a very logical thought for you to have and I commend you for your display of next-level thinking that Zaire appears incapable of. So, let’s look at yards per carry, not something as easily influenced by the frequency of rushing attempts.

In that category, OSU was 33rd in the country giving up 3.68 yards per carry while ND was 46th allowing 3.86 per attempt. Obviously not huge disparities, but these numbers sure aren’t painting the type of picture that Zaire and his fellow deranged Domers are trying to sell.

Well, maybe Zaire was talking about how much pressure Notre Dame’s front seven got on opposing quarterbacks. Clearly that statistic blew the blitzphobic Buckeyes out of the water, right? Well, last year ND ranked 12th nationally with 41 sacks, a fairly impressive number, while OSU was 34th in the country, but just five sacks behind at 36. So certainly the advantage here goes to ND, but is it enough of an advantage for Zaire to be crowing as much as he is? I think not.

In fairness, if you look at passing defense, Notre Dame does have a significant advantage in passing yardage ranking, coming in at a middling 63rd (224.2 ypg) to OSU’s horrendous 96th (245.8 ypg). However, this is when your self-talk comes in handy, because Ohio State’s number was inflated by the fact that its opponents had to resort to throwing the ball so early in games in an effort to catch up.

On a per attempt basis, Notre Dame allowed 6.8 yards (30th nationally) to the Buckeyes’ very nice 6.9 yards (32nd nationally). So, again, if Zaire thinks that OSU’s defense was awful last year, what is he saying about Notre Dame’s?

Could either the Ohio State or Notre Dame defenses be markedly better (or, I suppose, worse) in Week 1 than they were last season? Sure, but until they actually get on the field under their new coordinators, all we can work off of is what we’ve seen, and to my untrained eye, it sure looks like the defenses come out in a wash.

Of course, if you wanted to play into another one of Zaire’s idiotic hot takes, you could argue that clearly Notre Dame’s defense was better than Ohio State’s, because while the numbers were fairly comparable, the Buckeyes played in the sub-standard Big Ten, feasting on horrific opponents week in and week out, while the Irish played half of their games in the best conference in the country — the ACC, natch — and then played two B1G teams to boot.

But here’s the thing, according to Sports-Reference.com, the Buckeyes had the ninth-best strength of schedule ranking last year while the Irish were 22nd, so, maybe the Big Ten’s not as bad as Zaire is trying to tell us? Maybe it is head-and-shoulders the second-best conference in the country behind the ACC SEC. I don’t know, just a thought. I’ll defer to Malik on this, because clearly he knows what he’s talking up,,,,,,,,,,,,

While I’m out here putting the kibash on all of ND fans’ non-factual talking points, I might as well do one more. We all know that Ohio State’s biggest issues last year came against the best teams on their schedule, but that’s the way it’s supposed to be. The better teams are going to be more difficult to play against, and the Buckeyes aren’t the only defense susceptible to that.

In 2021, Notre Dame played three whole ranked teams, and in those games allowed an average of 439 yards per outing. That same year, Ohio State played five ranked teams and allowed only 414.6 ypg. Advantage (again) goes to OSU’s D.

So, to wrap up the rebuttal to Zaire’s unhinged take that Notre Dame’s defense is some offense-crushing Deathstar, nothing that he said about the disparities between the defenses is based on anything other than what his Touchdown Jesus-loving brain is telling him. Ohio State’s defense in 2021 wasn’t especially great, but neither was ND’s.

What makes it worse is that the other part of the bizarre tweet above isn’t much better either. He specifically says that ND’s offensive line is better than the Buckeyes’. He of course is welcome to think that, but, again, there’s no actual legitimate reason to think that.

Similar to the defensive ends, OSU has as many five-star players exclusively on the offensive line as the Irish have on their entire team, and other than the “Dawand in the rough” (trademark pending) that the OSU coaching staff plucked out of obscurity, their o-line starters were ranked ninth, 19th, 68th, and 108th nationally coming into college. That is a pretty impressive talent lineup.

But let’s not rest on high school laurels. Obviously there aren’t a ton of stats that directly measure offensive line play, but obviously rushing performance and sacks allowed would be the best options. So, let’s start with the running game.

In 2021, the Ohio State offense — one of the most prolific passing attempts in college football history — was 47th in rushing (180.31 ypg) while Notre Dame, behind Zaire’s venerated offensive line, was 83rd (144 ypg). If you carry that further, on a per-carry basis, the Buckeyes jump up to No. 3 nationally at 5.54 ypc, while ND moves up to 72nd at 4.14 yards per attempt.

I know that Mailk didn’t ask me, but I’d go with the line that led to a 1.4 yard advantage every day of the week. Well, what about sacks allowed. Ohio State passed so much last year, if the offensive line is as bad as Zaire says, clearly they must have gotten Stroud sacked a ton, right? No, in fact, it’s the other way around.

The Buckeyes allowed 17 sacks last season to bring them in at 14th nationally, while the Irish were 102nd... yes, you read that right, one-hundred-and-second, giving up 35 sacks — more than double OSU’s total.

So, I appreciate Zaire’s enthusiasm for his school, really I do, but what we saw from him on Twitter earlier in the week is another (admittedly low stakes) example of why social media has become so toxic in our society.

Someone who is utterly clueless about something has a thought and decides to put it on Twitter or Facebook or TikTok without actually looking into the topic first. And while for nobodies like you and me, oftentimes that’s not a big deal, when you have a platform like Zaire does, it is automatically amplified.

So, when people rightly clap back at the idiocy that you have proudly put on display, you are forced to either shrink away and ignore it, admit you made a mistake, or double (and triple and quadruple) down on your original inane comments.

Like so many people online have done over the past decade, Zaire opted for the latter. And while he has seemingly stepped away from his illogical attacks against the Ohio State team in recent days, the damage was already done to him and his reputation, as well as to the general discourse surrounding the game, making the general tenor of the game much more antagonistic and angry than it ever needed to be.

As Mark Twain famously said, “It’s better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than open it and remove all doubt.”


So, back to Zaire’s response to our tongue-in-cheek, hyperbolic response to him (I still think our tweet is more likely true than not).

No arguing that Stroud went 1-2 in the three biggest games of the season in 2021, but how you are hanging those losses on him is really strange, considering the numbers that he put up in all three outings. However, I’m not here to relitigate those contests, we’ve done that more than enough on the pages of this blog over the past 12 months. Instead, I want to try to figure out how Zaire’s tangled logic actually applies to Notre Dame quarterback Tyle Buchner.

In case you forgot, Oregon was only Stroud’s second start in his second year as a college quarterback; he had never thrown a pass in a collegiate game until the previous Saturday. Was it his best game of the season? Of course not. Did he make some poor decisions? Undoubtedly. Did he sail balls over the heads of receivers? Yep. Did it seem at times that the game was a bit too fast for him leading to missed opportunities? Absolutely.

But that’s what you expect from a first-time starter who only had one season of backup football under his belt.

Here’s the thing though, guess who is a second-year quarterback making his first career start on Saturday. That’s right, Buchner.

Admittedly, the ND QB had more game reps last year than Stroud did in his first collegiate season — due in no small part to the odd training camp and shortened schedule Stroud had as a freshman in 2020. However, Buchner only threw 46 passes in 10 games of action last year, and he only had two games in which he threw the ball more than three times (3-for-6 against Georgia Tech and 6-of-14 against Virginia Tech). Not exactly a body of work that automatically indicates that he is prepared for the big time.

Now, I’m not arguing that Buchner’s not ready, he very well might be, but as Zaire noted, the first couple of starts in a quarterback’s career can have some hiccups — even if he goes 35-of-54 for 484 yards. Obviously, Stroud got things figured out and went on to be a Heisman Trophy finalist while leading the Buckeyes to become the best offense in the country.

Will Buchner do the same thing for the Irish in 2022? I doubt it, but it is absolutely possible, and even if he does, chances are pretty good that he’s going to have some growing pains in his first career start going up against the most talented and unknown defense that he’s ever faced.


This one’s easy, Notre Dame — despite their preseason rankings — isn’t a top-five team. As always, they have benefitted from the college football intelligentsia’s nostalgia for an era long since passed. Top 10 team? Sure, but their rankings — as they always are — have been inflated by the brand.

This is truly a matchup between one of the three best programs in college football against a team that is probably on the second rung of the second tier.


Dude, what are you talking about? Won’t play on major TV? Ohio State is consistently the biggest college football draw in the country every single year. But putting your absolutely moronic takes on TV scheduling aside, let’s get into the scheduling side of this truly delusional tweet.

Ohio State has four games this season against preseason AP Top-25 teams (No. 5 Notre Dame, No. 18 Wisconsin, No. 15 Michigan State, No. 8 Michigan). That is — shockingly — the same exact number of games that the Irish have against Top-25 teams (No. 2 Ohio State, No. 25 BYU, No. 4 Clemson, No. 14 USC).

These things aren’t difficult to look up. Zaire said this in a tweet, not a live, on-camera interview. He could have checked the teams’ schedules before he hit the “Tweet” button, but he didn’t, because getting off spicy takes was more important to him than actually adding anything of value to the conversation that he so obviously wants to be a part of.

Now, far be it for me to tell someone else how to tweet — as long as it’s not truly hurting anyone — but I would think that as a fairly well-known figure in the sports community that Zaire would prefer not to look like a moron, but maybe we just have different approaches to our social media presences.


Ok, I’m going to stop there. Malik put out even more bonkers tweets earlier this week, but I’m at 3,000 words already, and I don’t have it in me to keep going.

Could everything Zaire said come true on Saturday and Notre Dame’s defense turns out to be an absolutely impenetrable force that C.J. Stroud and company just can’t find a way to overcome? Will the Irish’s offensive line routinely pave the way to paydirt for Tyler Buchner and the ND offense?

Sure, all of that could happen. I don’t think that it will, but it could. The thing is though, even if it does, all of the obviously combative statements that Zaire put on social media this week are still wrong based on the facts that we currently have at hand.

Sure, a former Irish quarterback (who finished his career as a Gator) will probably have more insight into Notre Dame’s team than I do, but the way that he has been talking about Ohio State proves that he neither watched the team all that closely in 2021, nor bothered to fact-check himself before sending his blather out into the world.

So, on the eve of another college football season opening in earnest tomorrow, don’t be like Malik Zaire. Argue passionately for your team, but do so with respect and insight. Don’t spew garbage out into the Twittersphere, because what you put out into the social media world is generally what you get back from the social media world; and trust me, I am just as much saying this for my benefit as anyone else’s.