What's next for Ohio State football? An early glance at Notre Dame
Ohio State’s highly anticipated season opener is on the horizon.
In a matter of four days, it opens against Notre Dame, the first-ever top-five matchup in Week 1 in the Buckeyes’ history.
There’s no shortage of storylines, from the Buckeyes’ debut of a revamped defense under $2 million-a-year coordinator Jim Knowles to Marcus Freeman’s return to Columbus. Freeman, the Irish’s first-year coach, was a former All-Big Ten linebacker at Ohio State in the mid to late 2000s.
The matchup also marks the first time the Midwestern powerhouses have met in the regular season since a home-and-home series was held in 1995 and 1996.
Let’s take a closer look at what the Buckeyes can expect when they host Notre Dame in primetime.
Week 1: Ohio State vs. Notre Dame
Saturday, 7:30 p.m., ABC, 97.1 FM/1460 AM
Notre Dame is No. 5 in both the Associated Press and coaches polls.
Ohio State is a 17.5-point favorite over the Irish.
Notre Dame’s last game
The Freeman era officially began about nine months when he was promoted as Brian Kelly’s successor. It was a few weeks before the Fiesta Bowl, where the Irish suffered a 37-35 loss to Oklahoma State despite leading by as many as three touchdowns in the second quarter. The second-half collapse kept Notre Dame from prevailing in a major bowl game for the first time since 1993.
Notre Dame's strength
The interior of Notre Dame’s offensive and defensive lines will test the Buckeyes in the trenches. Something to watch in the leadup to kickoff, though, is the health of top interior offensive lineman Jarrett Patterson, who suffered a foot sprain in the preseason and was described as questionable by Freeman on Monday. Patterson has not allowed a sack over his four seasons in South Bend. If healthy, he'll be at left guard after switching from center this offseason.
Notre Dame's weakness
There’s little depth at wide receiver or much proven firepower for Notre Dame. Braden Lenzy, its leading returning receiver, had 350 receiving yards last season, only three more than Ohio State's Jaxon Smith-Njigba had in the Rose Bowl.
Notre Dame's key player
Defensive end Isaiah Foskey is Notre Dame’s premier pass rusher and finished with 11 sacks last fall, the third-most in a season in program history, presenting an early test for Paris Johnson as he begins his first full season as the Buckeyes’ starting left tackle.
Notre Dame's X-factor
How much of a homefield advantage does the Horseshoe give Ohio State? Oregon, Oklahoma and Virginia Tech have all topped the Buckeyes in marquee non-conference games in Columbus over the last decade.
Ohio State-Notre Dame series history
The Buckeyes have prevailed over Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl in 2016 and 2006 and swept the home-and-home series in the mid-1990s. The only other matchups between the schools were in 1936 and 1935. The Irish won both.