On Saturday night it’s all eyes on South Bend for the college football universe as the #9 Notre Dame Fighting Irish take on the #6 Ohio State Buckeyes. ESPN’s College Gameday will be there, and it’s a matchup fans of both schools have been eagerly awaiting for many, many months.
So... who’s going to win? That’s the main question I’ve had to answer all week long as I walk around my hometown in the state of Ohio. 97% of those fans are die-hard Buckeye supporters, and I generally stay away from the smack-talk and low-hanging fruit as they have PLENTY of low-hanging fruit to pluck for themselves. Still... I have stayed consistent in my absolute belief that the Irish pull off the win.
Here are the three biggest reasons why the Irish take down Ohio State — and all three reasons are what THEY control.
After any big game loss the Notre Dame Fighting Irish have suffered over the last couple of decades, one of the biggest determining factors was that the quarterback from the other team wasn’t just better — but a lot better. I really can’t tell you when Notre Dame last went into a truly big football game with the better quarterback.
That changes this week.
Kyle McCord may end up being a fantastic Buckeye quarterback by the time he leaves Columbus, but RIGHT NOW Sam Hartman is one of the best in the entire country. Through four games Sam is completing over 70% of his passes and has 13 touchdowns with zero interceptions. And it’s not just the stats — he’s a true leader on the football field, and helps inspire toughness and confidence in this team.
Depth Chart Loaded
From top to bottom, Ohio State has more talent on its team than Notre Dame — at least according to the recruiting rankings. Be that as it may, the Irish haven’t had this much depth across the board at any point over the last two decades.
It’s not just a “next man in” philosophy. The Irish offense has four different players with rushing touchdowns and nine different players with receiving touchdowns. Notre Dame has spread the wealth early in the season, and in doing so, they have found more playmakers than we’ve seen in a long time.
We thought Notre Dame’s defensive line might be a liability going into the season, but they have performed at a high level through the first third of the season. While the sack numbers aren’t there, the pressures and havoc rates are very impressive. When Notre Dame puts pressure on the other team’s quarterback — nothing good happens for the opponent. A lot of that is due to the incredible depth in the secondary thanks to fantastic player development, and a little time in the transfer portal. While Ohio State’s wide receivers are definitely elite, this Irish secondary is fully-equipped to handle them in unison with the havoc from the front seven.
It’s Notre Dame’s time
Remember that little speech the Real Rudy gave in the movie The Goonies? It’s OUR time. The absolute heartbreak of all of these big game losses over the last couple of decades tastes like ash inside of our mouths. It’s time to drink from the well of destiny and reclaim Notre Dame’s rightful spot as an elite football program.
Ohio State has been a hinderance to that cause for quite some time. Besides being a fellow midwest adversary, the Buckeyes have been the winning team in the last five matchups going back to 1995. While the players on this team only have felt the sting once after last year’s 21-10 loss in Columbus, the Irish faithful have the scar tissue to prove it.
Notre Dame is going all in on a green out and creating an atmosphere worthy of a top 10 game inside Notre Dame Stadium. A lot of talk this week has been about this being the biggest game in South Bend since the 2005 USC game — a loss. I truly believe the Irish faithful will turn out on Saturday night, and will be willing to give everything they have in support of the boys on the field.
It’s going to be magical.