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Three Things To Watch from Notre Dame

The Buckeyes travel to South Bend for the first big test of the 2023 season

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 16 Central Michigan at Notre Dame Photo by Joseph Weiser/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

For the first time since 1996, Ohio State will trek to South Bend, Indiana to play the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Ohio State and Notre Dame have faced each other in the 2006 Fiesta Bowl (Ohio State 34, Notre Dame 20) and the 2016 Fiesta Bowl (Ohio State 44, Notre Dame 28), but the Buckeyes and Fighting Irish have only met in regular season contest five times, with OSU having won the last three times. If Notre Dame wins this game, it will be the first time since a 12-7 win in South Bend back on Oct. 31, 1936.

The hype for this game is palpable, as it will be a national broadcast on NBC at 7:30pm ET. ESPN’s College Gameday will be on campus, a pretty notable acknowledgement that this is a significant game for the college football landscape.

Notre Dame has invited their top recruiting targets for this game, as they believe this will be a tremendous showcase for their program. And in a nod to their program’s history, Notre Dame will be wearing green jerseys, something that is only done on very special occasions.

Last year, Ohio State and Notre Dame met in the 2022 season opener for both teams, as Ohio State won 21-10. At that time, Ohio State had an established quarterback in C.J. Stroud, and a seasoned offensive line, anchored by left tackle Paris Johnson, Jr., while Notre Dame struggled with its passing attack with former quarterback Tyler Buchner, now at Alabama.

One year later, the situation has switched, with Notre Dame featuring an experienced quarterback in Wake Forest graduate transfer Sam Hartman piloting the Fighting Irish offense, and a talented offensive line protecting him, led by left tackle Joe Alt. Ohio State features three new starters along their offensive line, and Kyle McCord will be making his fifth start at quarterback on the road at night against a stout Notre Dame defense.

Below are Three Things To Watch From Notre Dame, as this game has college football playoff implications for both teams...

  1. How Will Kyle McCord handle the defensive pressure?

I alluded to this up above, as McCord has not yet faced as talented a defensive opponent as he will against Notre Dame. Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman has a defensive background, and will probably unveil some new blitz packages that the Buckeyes have not seen in their film preparation. Ohio State fans will recognize former Buckeye DE Javonte Jean-Baptiste, who is now wearing jersey No. 1 for the Fighting Irish.

Kyle McCord has impressed with his quick progressions in the passing game, and that is why I will not be surprised if Ohio State TE Cade Stover is often a check down option for McCord in the event Notre Dame is blitzing on passing plays. McCord needs to continue to play smart football, taking what the defense gives him.

2. Will Ohio State be able to pressure Notre Dame’s Sam Hartman?

I wrote about the formidable Notre Dame offensive line, led by Joe Alt. Conversely, Ohio State’s defensive end tandem of Jack Sawyer and J.T. Tuimoloau will be needed to apply pressure on Notre Dame’s Sam Hartman. More than likely, Tuimoloau will be lined up opposite of Alt, so this is a battle to keep eyes and ears upon, as both Alt and Tuimoloau can use this game to boost their respective NFL Draft stock.

3. Is Ohio State ready for their first test of 2023?

In my article reflecting upon Ohio State’s 63-10 win over Western Kentucky, I wrote, “Looking at these first three games for Ohio State, I have reflected that it was almost like an NFL team’s preseason schedule.”. Preseason is now over, as Notre Dame has established themselves as a legitimate top ten team, with college football playoff aspirations.

In many ways, Ohio State has been able to identify areas of concern (offensive line play, short yardage running plays), while also determining that Kyle McCord should be their starting quarterback. This is not the Notre Dame team that Ohio State faced in last year’s season opener, as Sam Hartman has given the Fighting Irish a legitimate passing option, while Notre Dame RB Audric Estime is the type of player who will wear down an opposing defense with his physical style of play. Both sides of the ball will need to be at their best for Ohio State in this one.

This should be a good one, and I am expecting a tough, hard-nosed game that will stress both teams. Considering how it will be at night, and the Notre Dame fans will be trying to create a raucous atmosphere after a whole day of liquid preparation, it will be crucial for Ohio State to try and stem the home tide early. I see this going down to the wire, and it would not surprise me if Ohio State PK Jayden Fielding is needed to put the winning points on the board, late in the contest.

I have it Ohio State 31, Notre Dame 28.