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You’re Nuts: Bold predictions for Ohio State vs. Notre Dame

The Buckeyes and the Fighting Irish battle it out in Week 4.

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

Everybody knows that one of the best parts of being a sports fan is debating and dissecting the most (and least) important questions in the sporting world with your friends. So, we’re bringing that to the pages of LGHL with our favorite head-to-head column: You’re Nuts.

In You’re Nuts, two LGHL staff members will take differing sides of one question and argue their opinions passionately. Then, in the end, it’s up to you to determine who’s right and who’s nuts.

This week’s topic: Bold predictions for Ohio State vs. Notre Dame

Josh’s Take

The 2023 college football season begins in earnest this weekend, especially for the Ohio State Buckeyes. Because September has been a bit of a snoozefest thus far for both OSU and most top-tier CFB teams in general.

Outside of Texas-Alabama and a few other matchups, Saturdays have gravitated toward mundane, and the games have not packed a whole lot of punch. Sure, you’ve probably been able to find a game or two each weekend that had its moments and/or a wild ending, but Week 4 should be when and where business really starts to pick up. Seriously, the slate is incredible.

And of course one of the marquee matchups this weekend involves our beloved Buckeyes. The Scarlet and Gray will travel to South Bend (IN) for the first time since 1996, to take on former Ohio State linebacker Marcus Freeman and his Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Both teams are undefeated, both teams are in the top-10, and both teams really, really want to win. I am not sure which team needs it more, but I think it might be the Irish. Seems like they need a major victory to hang their hat on... Although, if Ryan Day loses another big-time game, I’m sure we’ll hear plenty about him and his ‘overrated’ OSU squad.

Historically speaking, the Buckeyes have dominated this quasi-rivalry... At least I think it’s a bit of a rivalry. Ohio State has won the last five meetings, including last year’s 21-10 victory in Columbus. But playing in South Bend is an entirely different animal, and probably unlike anything OSU quarterback Kyle McCord has ever experienced. Which is why I think the playing field is level this time around, if not tilted slightly in favor of the Irish.

So what should we expect from McCord and the Buckeyes? I am not entirely sure... Sorry if I gave you that impression. But I do have a few predictions for the game, which is what Gene and I decided to roll out for today’s version of You’re Nuts. See how I transitioned seamlessly there?

With a game of this magnitude, it is often hard to predict how things will unfold. There are just so many questions. Such as: Will McCord rise to the occasion against better competition? Will Notre Dame QB Sam Hartman? After all, the Irish have not exactly played a murderer’s row of opponents. Will Ryan Day outcoach the younger and less experienced Freeman? Or will he take the conservative approach that drives Ohio State fans mad?

I could go on and on, but I risk burying the lead. Gene and I owe you predictions. My point with the questions above was to drive home the fact that I am wildly unsure of how this game will go. For that reason, I decided to make a bold prediction about just one individual participating in said game. He does not play quarterback — or any skill position for that matter. And he has been extremely quiet through three weeks for the team in Scarlet and Gray. But I’ve got a feeling that he shows up and shows out in another big moment.

Without further ado, I boldly predict that J.T. Tuimoloau will ‘rise from the dead’ on Saturday night, have at least one sack, one (other) TFL, and generally speaking, make a significant impact on the game. And the Buckeyes will likely need him to, if they are going to go on the road and beat the Golden Domers.

Tuimoloau has not been great thus far in 2023. And honestly, he was hit or miss in 2022 as well. I think that is just sort of what OSU fans should expect from Tuimoloau at this point in his career. We certainly know that he is capable of disrupting and dominating a game, but he hasn’t quite figured out the consistency part. And that can be frustrating for Buckeye Nation. However, the magical, mythical Penn State game (‘22) will always keep us intrigued.

But my bold prediction goes beyond intrigue. I have belief. I have confidence. That Tuimoloau will play a great game on Saturday, while likely going up against one of the best left tackles in the country in ND’s Joe Alt. Crazy? Perhaps. But I like to think of this prediction as reasonably bold.

Tuimoloau has shown or proven in the past that he is capable of single-handedly taking over a game. That was against Penn State, a team with a stud LT and a stout offensive line — a la Notre Dame. Alt is about as good as they come at the college level, but he is only one man. And I just have a feeling that Tuimoloau is going to be wildly motivated on/for Saturday night. To battle ND’s All-American and also show the CFB world what he is capable of... Or at least remind them.

The Buckeyes’ defensive end has likely heard some of the criticism about his up-and-down play. If he has not, well then good for him. Seriously. But Tuimoloau is a talented player. Opponents plan for him. They double him, they scheme away from him, and sometimes they just refuse to give him any opportunities. There is an argument to be made that the latter has been true in 2023. Ohio State encountered two teams who essentially refused to throw the ball, and another that got rid of it in .5 seconds. Notre Dame, on the other hand, will not be afraid. Which means that Tuimoloau should at least get some chances.

I am not predicting another Penn State performance from Tuimoloau, although I would gladly take it. Instead, I predict that No. 44 will play well and make a tangible difference for OSU. And if he does, then I will feel really, really good about the Buckeyes’ chances. Go Bucks.

Gene’s Take

After two meh performances and an impressive outing against Western Kentucky, Ohio State will now truly be tested with a road game at Notre Dame. This is the Buckeyes’ first true road contest in a hostile environment this season, as the Indiana game, while on the road, was probably a greater percentage of OSU fans than those in favor of the Hoosiers. It will be interesting to see how a raucous enemy crowd impacts Ryan Day’s largely veteran group — albeit one with a first-year starting quarterback.

With Josh making a bold prediction on the defensive side of things, I wanted to make one for the offense, but with the way Ohio State’s offense plays when its at its best, nothing really feels all that bold. While I do think Notre Dame’s defense is far and away the best the Buckeyes have seen to this point, is it really all that bold to predict that Marvin Harrison Jr. will go for 150 yards and three touchdowns? Would it be crazy to see Kyle McCord throw for 400-plus yards? I dont think it’s out of the question, but I also think Day will look to have a balanced attack against the Irish much like he did against Western Kentucky.

So instead, I will also predict something from the defense, and I am going to drink the Silver Bullets Kool-aid with a very bold prediction: I think the Ohio State defense will hold Sam Hartman under 200 yards passing.

Hartman has been nothing short of fantastic for Notre Dame through its first four games this season. The Wake Forest transfer has already thrown for over 1,000 yards with 13 touchdowns and an even more impressive zero interceptions. He has far and away his best passer efficiency rating of his career at 217.8, having previously passed for nearly 13,000 yards in his time with the Demon Deacons. Hartman has virtually seen it all, now playing in his sixth year of college football, but he definitely hasn’t yet faced a defense so far this season that is anything close to what Ohio State has been trotting out there.

From the start of the 2021 season to present day, Hartman has started 30 games between Wake Forest and Notre Dame. In that span, he has failed to hit 200 passing yards just two times. Once was the season opener in 2021 against Old Dominion, where Hartman wasn’t asked to do a whole lot in a 42-10 victory wherein Wake Forest ran the ball 41 times and also returned a kickoff for a touchdown. The other was this season against Tennessee State, where Notre Dame ran for 221 yards and Hartman only played in the first half of a 56-3 blowout.

Over that same span, Hartman has passed for more than 300 yards on 16 occasions, including twice against Clemson and once against UNC. As previously mentioned, this is one of the most experienced quarterbacks in the entire country, having completed over 1,000 passes and throwing for more than 14,000 yards in his collegiate career. Holding him under 200 yards is no easy feat, but I think this Ohio State secondary is one of the program’s best in several years, and they could very well be up to the task.

In three games this season, the Silver Bullets have allowed just 421 passing yards total. Now, this is skewed because Indiana ran the triple option for a majority of that game, but the Buckeyes held Youngstown State to 135 yards passing and the dynamic passing attack of Western Kentucky to 204 yards. Notre Dame is far more talented than either of those teams, but the Hilltoppers are likely more prone to explosive plays. Being able to limit those big plays against WKU has me extremely confident in what they can do against the Irish.

I don’t think it’s at all a shot at Notre Dame to say that Ohio State’s secondary is going up against better wide receivers in practice each week than they are on Saturdays. That kind of thing sort of comes with the territory of having Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka on the roster in addition to the rest of Brian Hartline's band of five-stars. Hartman is a really good quarterback, but the Fighting Irish receivers leave a bit to be desired. There are some talented players in that room, but nobody jumps off the page in a way like the Buckeye pass-catchers do.

I’m confident that Denzel Burke, Davison Igbinosun, and Jordan Hancock with a talented group of safeties behind them can shut down the ND passing attack on Saturday — especially if Josh’s prediction comes through and the Buckeyes can finally get a pass rush going.