Buckeyes (3-0) vs. Fighting Irish (4-0) Match-Up Preview | 9/23 7:30 PM EST.

September 22, 2023

Andy Billman

Gameday Preview Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Buckeyes Prepare for Game 4 of Season Against Notre Dame on Saturday: 

1 – Primetime, College GameDay Buzz 

There is a lot of buzz and chatter about the Buckeye’s game with the Fighting Irish on Saturday night, for good reason.  Tradition and fanbase alone create a lot of excitement and with the talent and expectations of both teams, it makes for a Saturday Night Showdown in South Bend.

Add that Notre Dame Head Coach and former Buckeye player Marcus Freeman is thirsting for a big victory and that the Irish have not beaten the Buckeyes since 1936, almost 90 years ago, adds to the drama.

College GameDay will be there before the game, which will be on for the nation at 7:30. Get out the popcorn.

2 – Ohio State’s Defense vs. Notre Dame Offense.

This match-up will get a lot of attention as Notre Dame has gotten excellent quarterback play from Sam Hartman, and the Buckeyes have limited opponents so far in three games, only giving up 6.7 points per game, second in the nation.  

The offensive line and their talented running back Audric Estime for the Irish create a dual threat of the pass and the run for Notre Dame.  

Ohio State has an excellent defensive line and linebacker core that will be ready for the challenge, and the rebirth of CB Denzel Burke, who has been very good early on in 2023, will be prepared.  Burke was fantastic against Western Kentucky. 

The big question is, can the Buckeyes limit the Irish big play ability?  The Irish can hit you deep, and as we all know too well, that was the downfall of the 2022 Buckeyes.  Notre Dame last week alone had two pass plays of over 75 yards for a touchdown.  

Getting pressure on Hartman is crucial as he has shown early he does not handle it well and is not as elusive as other quarterbacks.  It’s time for JT Tuimoloau and Jack Sawyer to get some sacks.  Both are shut out for sacks on the season and have not made much noise in 2023.

3 – Big Play Buckeyes

In recent games with the Irish, big plays on offense have been where the Buckeyes flexed their muscles.  In the 2023 version, I believe Ohio State can do some damage with Marvin Harrison Jr. and Emeka Egbuka.  QB Kyle McCord looked great last week and showcased both receivers for multiple big plays.  The Irish don’t have the athletes to match up with both. Look for one or the other, or perhaps both, to go off during the game.  

In the run game, Notre Dame has done well against the rush, so big plays in the passing game will be critical if Ohio State wins on Saturday night.  Don’t be surprised if the Irish test McCord’s arm early and try to stuff TreVeyon Henderson. 


What a fun matchup, and even though both teams need the game, there is tremendous pressure on Notre Dame to win on Saturday night.  For the Irish to have gone winless in almost 90 years of the Buckeyes is a sore spot for the fans and alums.

Head Coach Ryan Day usually does well in early-season matchups and is tested compared to Freeman.  Hartman, though, is far more experienced than McCord, which evens that out. 

I see a lot of defense early with the luck of the Irish and the emotion of the moment being too much.  Historically, Notre Dame usually does well in these games when they are a true underdog in a big game.  I’m factoring in emotion over physical ability, with the difference being Hartman is a good quarterback and, I believe, will outplay McCord.

Ohio State Buckeyes Notes

Ohio State has reasserted itself as a contender in the Big 10 and a potential NCAA playoffs contender. However, their recent performances have been somewhat inconsistent. In their first game, they narrowly defeated Indiana, only managing a 23-3 victory despite being 30-point favorites. Game two saw them as 44.5-point favorites against Youngstown State (FCS), yet they won with a 35-7 score, not an impressive margin. Nevertheless, they found their stride in their most recent match, a resounding 63-10 victory over Western Kentucky, their most complete performance to date. But now, they face their most formidable challenge of the season.

Ohio State is renowned for its explosive offense, exemplified by their dominant showing against WKU, accumulating 204 rushing yards and 338 passing yards. However, facing the formidable Notre Dame defense presents a significant contrast. While the Buckeyes return seven starters from an offense that averaged 44 points per game last season, they are adjusting to a new quarterback in Kyle McCord, which has contributed to their slow offensive start. McCord has thrown for 815 yards, six touchdowns, and one interception this season, but he is up against one of the nation’s top-ranked secondaries in this matchup.

On the defensive side, Ohio State’s prowess is evident, as they permitted just 21 points per game last season and retained seven starters from that unit. Thus far, their defense has been among the nation’s best, ranking 3rd in yards allowed per game, 2nd in yards allowed per play, and 7th against the pass while conceding a mere 6.67 points per game. Despite their strong showing against the Western Kentucky offense, limiting them to 284 total yards, they did yield 204 passing yards. Now, they must contend with Sam Hartman and Notre Dame’s formidable passing attack, providing a significant test for the Buckeye defense.

Ohio State Players to Watch and Stats

Buckeyes Players to Watch

  • This year, Kyle McCord has recorded 815 passing yards (271.7 yards per game) while going 53-for-76 (69.7% completion percentage) and throwing six touchdowns and one interception.
  • TreVeyon Henderson has racked up a team-high 191 rushing yards (63.7 yards per game) and scored four touchdowns.
  • DeaMonte Trayanum has rushed for 133 yards on 19 carries (44.3 yards per game), with one touchdown on the ground this year.
  • Marvin Harrison Jr. has 14 catches and paces his team with 304 receiving yards (101.3 ypg) while scoring three touchdowns.
  • Cade Stover has also added 188 yards on 10 catches. He averages 94.0 receiving yards per game this year.
  • Emeka Egbuka has caught 12 passes for 167 yards and three touchdowns, averaging 55.7 yards per game this year.

Buckeyes Stats

  • Ohio State has covered once in three matchups with a spread this season.
  • The Buckeyes have been favored by 3 points or more three times this season and covered the spread in one of those games.
  • Ohio State games have hit the over once this season.
  • So far this season, one of the Buckeyes outings has gone over 55.5 points.
  • The average total in OSU’s games this year is 60.5, 5.0 more than this matchup’s over/under.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish Notes

Could this finally be the year when the Notre Dame Fighting Irish overcome their historical struggles in big games? The team boasts an impressive 4-0 record this season and has shown exceptional performance in each of those four games. Last week, they triumphed over Central Michigan with a commanding score of 41-17, marking a cumulative score of 46-11.5 in their favor across all four contests. In contrast, while Ohio State grappled with their FCS opponent, Notre Dame convincingly defeated theirs 56-3.

Notably, the Notre Dame offense, which had been rather lackluster in recent years, has undergone a transformation this season, primarily due to the addition of quarterback Sam Hartman. Last year, Notre Dame only managed to throw for an average of 207 yards per game, but with Hartman leading the charge, they now rank 21st in the nation in passing with an impressive 304.2 yards per game. The Irish are not solely reliant on their passing game; they also possess one of the most formidable groups of running backs in the nation. Headed by Audric Estime, who has racked up 521 rushing yards, Notre Dame ranks 27th in the nation in rushing with an average of 204.5 yards per game. Given the strength of the Ohio State defense, Notre Dame must effectively utilize both their ground and aerial attacks to advance the ball; they cannot afford to be one-dimensional in this matchup.

On the defensive side, Notre Dame has welcomed back eight starters from a unit that allowed an average of 23 points per game last season, and the results have been outstanding thus far. The team currently holds the 4th rank in the nation for yards allowed, 3rd in yards per play against, and 42nd against the run. Notably, they excel in defending against the pass, conceding just 126.8 passing yards per game, earning them the 4th spot in the nation. The Notre Dame secondary is considered one of the best in the nation and will need to step up their game when facing McCord and the Buckeyes’ passing attack, which displayed significant improvement last week.

Notre Dame Players to Watch and Stats

Fighting Irish Players to Watch

  • Sam Hartman leads the team with 1,061 passing yards (265.3 yards per game) and has a 71.1% completion percentage this year (64-of-90) while throwing 13 touchdowns.
  • Audric Estime has picked up a team-best 521 rushing yards (130.3 per game) and five touchdowns.
  • Jeremiyah Love has 119 yards on 18 carries (29.8 ypg), with one rushing touchdown.
  • This season Chris Tyree has eight catches and leads the team with 216 yards (54.0 per game) while scoring two touchdowns.
  • Jayden Thomas has hauled in 12 catches for 188 yards (47.0 yards per game) and one touchdown.
  • Tobias Merriweather has totaled 131 yards on five receptions with one touchdown, averaging 43.7 yards per game.

Fighting Irish Stats

  • Notre Dame has won three games against the spread this season, failing to cover once.
  • In 2023, three Notre Dame games have gone over the point total.
  • Irish games this season have had a combined scoring total higher than 55.5 points in three of four outings.
  • The average over/under for Notre Dame’s contests this season is 51.3, 4.2 fewer points than this game’s total.

Pick and Prediction

The Fighting Irish have faced challenges in winning significant games over the years, but there’s a distinct feeling of change this year. Both teams haven’t encountered particularly tough opponents early in the season, but Notre Dame has demonstrated superior performance against its weaker rivals compared to Ohio State. Notably, the Fighting Irish possess one of the nation’s premier defenses and a potent running game. However, what sets them apart now is their top-tier passing game, which could prove to be the decisive factor in this matchup.

In terms of quarterbacks, Sam Hartman appears to have the edge over McCord, and while Ohio State’s defense has been formidable thus far, Notre Dame boasts the stronger defensive unit. Adding to their advantage, the Irish are playing at home, where they have a formidable track record, while Ohio State struggled significantly in their sole road game this season. It’s a compelling case for the Irish to secure a resounding victory on their home turf.

Our Pick:  Irish win 24-21

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