Updated: Sep 19
Jason Mowry/Icon Sportswire/Corbis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Week 1: Ohio State vs Notre Dame, 7:30 p.m.
How to Watch: ABC - Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit and Holly Rowe (sideline)
How to Listen: 97.1 The Fan, Westwood One Radio
The start of the college football season is officially upon us, and that means the road to Ohio State's ninth potential National Championship is on as well. Ohio State returns one of the most talented quarterbacks to ever grace the Buckeye state in C.J. Stroud, who could finish second in all-time Buckeye passing yards in just two seasons, along with the best freshman running back the Buckeyes have had since Archie Griffin in TreVeyon Henderson, who put together the second most rushing yards by a freshman at Ohio State ever. Oh, and by the way, they also have a wide receiver room that ranks No. 1 in the country for the second straight season and is headlined by the best wide receiver statistically in all of college ball last year in Jaxon Smith-Njigba. Needless to say, if the Buckeyes are going to win it all, they have all the right pieces.
It will not be an easy start for the greatest offensive unit in Buckeye history, as they will host the No. 5 ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Coming off an 11-2 season and finishing No. 9 in the College Football Playoff rankings, Notre Dame brings in new head coach Marcus Freeman, who coached the Fiesta Bowl for the Irish last season after the departure of Notre Dame's all-time winningest head coach in Brian Kelly to LSU. Notre Dame is hoping bringing in a defensive coach in Freeman helps keep a strong defensive tradition alive. The only problem is it hasn't been the defense that continues to fail for ND, it's the offense.
The sophomore QB for Notre Dame in Tyler Buchner won the starting job from Drew Pyne in summer camps. Buchner is a former 4-star recruit out of the state of California who received offers from Alabama, Oregon and USC before committing to Notre Dame. He compiled only 35 pass attempts last season, with the Irish completing 21 for 298 yards, three touchdowns, and three interceptions. The big reason Buchner got the starting gig is his ability to run the football.
Drew Pyne rushed for negative yards last season while Buchner as a true freshman ran for over 300. He never saw more than double digit pass attempts in a game last season, so he will be taking his first start, which is never an easy task, and he'll have to do it against one of the most storied programs in history and one of the most successful of the last two decades. The Buckeyes defense has faced plenty of QB's like Buchner in the past, such as Aiden Martinez last season, and they have been successful against them in their old defensive system. Jim Knowles' new defensive scheme will be the biggest question. This unit was terrible against the run last year, but Knowles claims this new scheme should put a stop to those problems this year,
Defensively, Ohio State is in a great position to succeed. Knowles came in and immediately set the bar high for this team, saying the goal was to be a Top 5 defense in the nation. His defensive scheme led an otherwise underwhelming Oklahoma State team to one of the top spots in the Big 12, and now he is working with much better talent and facilities. Tommy Eichenberg, Tyler Friday and Kourt Williams have been named the defensive captains and all look to have great seasons, but the best defensive player returning this season is Ronnie Hickman, who led the team in both tackles and interceptions in 2021.
The D-line is expected to produce some epic talent again this year, with Swayer and J.T.T., and the linebacker core is said to be much improved from last season. The new defensive scheme should provide these great players with every chance to succeed and show a much better performance then they did last season.
They will be taking on a first-time starting QB, first-time starting RB, a young WR core, and an offensive line where both Tackles are sophomores. If Knowles' defense will be Top 5 this season, they will dominate this game no problem. The inside of the line is strong and experienced, as the Irish bring back a senior, a fifth year and a sixth year. The left guard of Notre Dame in Jarrett Patterson is a prime 2023 NFL prospect who is coming of an Achilles' tear last season and is looking to make an impression.
The tight end is the main position to watch for Notre Dame in this game. Michael Mayer comes in to this season as the No. 2 ranked TE in the country this year, and this position has become so dangerous in modern day football that if he alone has a great day, Notre Dame could come away with the win.
The Ohio State offense maned by C.J, Stroud will have their work cut out in Week 1, as Notre Dame touts the best DB unit in the nation, even after they lost their No. 1 guy to the draft last year in Kyle Hamilton. That group will be led by safety Brandon Joseph and corner Cam Hart.
Isaiah Foskey is the leader on the Irish D-line and is being looked at as a potential Top 10 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft next spring. Three of the Top 5 players on this year's Irish team play on the defense and that will put the Buckeyes in danger. Last season, this Buckeye unit didn't get off to the best start in games, especially early in the season, which hopefully doesn't carry over to 2022. The first quarter could make or break the game for Ohio State because it will be hard to make a comeback against a good defense in Notre Dame's. Early deficits put Ohio State in the hole against both Oregon and Michigan last year, and Ohio State would end up losing both those games. It also forced a tight game to start the season against Minnesota as well.
If Ohio State is as good as promised this year, they should easily dominate the much younger Notre Dame Irish squad and take away a Top 5 victory in Week 1 of the season and cover the 17.5 point spread for the game. The over/under of this game is set at 58.5 and considering Ohio State has averaged 40-plus points per game over the last five years, this also seems like a pretty safe bet. This is a rebuilding Irish unit going through a transition year with some solid talent and an unexperienced first time head coach, and Ohio State is a fully powered national contender, and the favorite to make the College Football Playoff this season.
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