With the Irish set to take the field in Columbus in just 51 days, many discussions will start (and have started) about what is one of if not the biggest season openers I can remember. This game is unmeasurably important in so many different ways; recruiting, playoff standing, Freeman’s first regular season game (against his alma mater), winning the “big one”, Buchner’s first start, the list can go on and on. If you listen to any podcasts or read any articles I think it is obvious everyone is aware of the importance of the game on September 3rd. The question isn’t “is the game important?” but rather how important? So I ask - Would you rather beat Ohio St. and miss the playoffs (most likely going 10-2) or lose to Ohio St. but make the playoffs (most likely going 11-1)? There are so many levels and scenarios that could occur with each outcome. There is no guarantee that we win if we make it to the playoff in this scenario. But there is also no guarantee we don’t.
The best place to start in my opinion would be on the recruiting trail. I broke it down to myself like this - What is more important to a recruit? Beating Ohio State in their house, opening weekend, in primetime. Or being named by the committee as one of the four best teams in college football. I and I know others have been a proponent of making the playoff no matter what. That question normally arises when discussing getting a NY6 Bowl win vs making the playoff. My opinion does change when presented with this scenario. In my opinion, beating Ohio St. this season would be far and beyond more important than a NY6 Bowl win. The game is not at a neutral site, no one will be sitting out, College Gameday will be there, and it’s week 1. That is the pinnacle of hype for the college football season. If you win this game, those who have and those who are thinking about committing to Ohio St. over Notre Dame will see everything in a completely different light. Not saying that making your third playoff as a program would not help with recruits. I just believe that Ohio St. being the opponent is key due to how the Irish and the Buckeyes are directly recruiting against each other. Just think how much of a statement a win would it be with the stage that has been set.
If the Irish can go in and upset the Buckeyes in Week 1. It would be the mother of all springboards to achieve what the program is set to do. Not only with recruiting as I mentioned, but in the fact, this is a whole new team (attitude wise) and coaching staff. Brand new Head Coach, brand new starting Quarterback, and a brand new approach to how they do things. If in your first official test you’re able to do what the last regime failed to do for more than over a decade……..That adrenaline boost to the coaches, the players, the recruits, the students, the fans, and even the administration could be scary. And once again it’s not that I don’t believe that making the playoff and having that chance to get a least one win would not hype everyone up. If Marcus can make it back to the playoff I think everyone would be more than pleased. But I think how this game against Ohio St. has been set up, it has the possibility of making us slightly more than pleased. More like Notre Dame as a whole is Bane, and beating the Buckeyes is Bane injecting his venom.
There are plenty of great reasons that making the College Football Playoff this season would be extremely beneficial to the Irish. It would be huge for the new regime to get over the hump and take at least one game. I just believe that the immediate and direct impact of a win on September 3rd is so much more important than just an appearance in January. But I’m just a regular ol’ schmuck. What would you all rather have?