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Notre Dame vs Ohio State: 3 Keys for an Irish Victory

Written By Nick Kremer, Editor for The Irish Tribune

Photo from Si.com


Notre Dame and Ohio State will meet September 3rd at Ohio Stadium for a prime-time matchup. This will be the true start to the Freeman Era for the Irish, and you could not ask for a bigger match up. Marcus Freeman is not only a first-time head coach at one of the most prestigious football programs in the country, but he is also facing off against his alma mater to make his head coaching debut.


Ohio State opens up as a 2+ touchdown favorite against the Irish and is expected to play for the National Championship come January. The Buckeyes have been projected as an early favorite to make the College Football Playoff; they are favored to win every game on their regular season schedule. Needless to say, Marcus Freeman and the Irish have their work cut out for them.


However, let's not get too carried away. Notre Dame returns a lot of talent on both sides of the ball and will not roll over for the Buckeyes. If Notre Dame wants to get the win in the Horseshoe, there are three things they will need to do to upset the Buckeyes.



RUN. THE. BALL.


Notre Dame will need to establish a heavy run game against OSU to win this game. A heavy dose of running plays will keep the explosive Buckeye offense on the sideline. OSU’s greatest strength is their offense, so the longer Notre Dame can hold on to the ball and create long drives, the less time Ohio State has to put up points.


Ryan Day brought in a new defensive coordinator in Jim Knowles, who is expected to fix the defensive struggles for OSU. Expect Knowles to bring a variety of unique pressures and alignments against ND in the opener. He will try to disguise coverages, mask blitz packages, and rotate personnel often.


With an extremely talented offensive line leading the way, headlined by two stud tackles, the Irish should be able to establish a run game early. In last year's season opener, the Oregon Ducks were able to put up 269 rushing yards against OSU in the win. In the loss to Michigan, the Buckeyes gave up 297 rushing yards. Expect for Notre Dame to run the ball early and often.



Pressure


CJ Stroud is one of the best QB’s in the country, a Heisman candidate, and will be a future NFL player. It is near impossible to completely shut down a player like Stroud, but for the Irish to get the win, they must make him uncomfortable.


One of Notre Dame’s greatest strengths is their front 7 on defense. With the return of Isaiah Foskey, and experienced linebackers, getting pressure on Stroud will be crucial for Notre Dame’s defense. This will make Stroud have to make quick decisions, and also give his explosive receivers less time to get open.


New Defensive Coordinator Al Golden, fresh off a Super Bowl trip with the Bengals, will have to dial up different pressures and stunts to get after Stroud. Notre Dame is deep in their front 7, so I expect a lot of rotation throughout the game to keep the defense fresh and hungry to get after OSU. If Notre Dame can find a way to win this game, I predict a lot of it will be because of Al Golden and his gameplan.



Special Teams/Turnovers


This may seem like a no-brainer, but for Notre Dame to win this game, they have to find a couple of big plays outside of their offense. New Special Teams coordinator Brian Mason is in his first year with the Irish. Last year, he led the special teams for Cincinnati, which was among the best in the country. Mason is known to be aggressive when it comes to special teams, so a big play from this group is something to watch for.

Notre Dame will also need to take care of the football. They can not afford to give Ohio State any extra possessions. I expect Offensive Coordinator Tommy Rees to have a variety of different formations, but a lot of easy reads for first-time starting QB Tyler Buchner. Additionally, they will need to find a way to cause 1-2 turnovers in this game to quiet the crowd and shift momentum.


Notre Dame should come into this game holding nothing back. Being a heavy underdog, I expect Notre Dame to play loose, play with a chip on their shoulder, and play hard for their new head coach. Suppose they can find a way to establish the run game, pressure Stroud, and make 1-2 unexpected big plays. In that case, Notre Dame and Marcus Freeman might be leaving Columbus with one of the biggest wins for the program in years.



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