Can Notre Dame Surprise as Underdogs Against Ohio State in NCAAF Week 1?

Michael Mayer Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Michael Mayer #87 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish dives to score a touchdown against the Oklahoma State Cowboys. Chris Coduto/Getty Images/AFP.

If you take this matchup at face value with No. 5 Notre Dame at No. 2 Ohio State, we should have one heck of a game. However, rankings only go so far.

The oddsmakers at all the top sportsbooks first sent Ohio State out at -11. The official line was released at -14 and now the Buckeyes are quite large -17.5 point home favorites at BetMGM.

Though the brand names are still important, this might not be nearly as interesting as the storyline.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. Ohio State Buckeyes

Saturday, September 3, 2022 – 07:30 PM EDT at Ohio Stadium

Why is Notre Dame Such an Underdog?

This is why Notre Dame is a decided dog.

Marcus Freeman’s Lack of Experience

While Marcus Freeman is highly regarded as a recruiter and defensive coordinator, his lack of head coaching experience was evident in Notre Dame’s Fiesta Bowl loss to Oklahoma State and he’s going into as tough an environment as you can in Columbus.

Ohio State’s Superior Offense

The Buckeyes and Alabama are legitimately the top two teams in the country. Ohio State was the best offensive team in the country a year ago and could repeat.

New Quarterback for Notre Dame

Notre Dame is breaking in a new quarterback in Tyler Buchner and they are woefully thin at wide receiver due to previously poor recruiting and injuries to start the year.

Heisman Favorite for Ohio State

Quarterback C.J. Stroud might win the Heisman this year (he’s the favorite) and he has a continuing supply of wide receivers that keep coming through the Ohio State locker room.

Notre Dame’s Defensive Flaws

What is the Irish’s biggest defensive weakness? There is a lack of athletic ability at cornerback and speed at safety.

Can the Irish Offense Help Cover the Spread?

This is not an easy question to answer, but there is a formula for that to occur. This involves Notre Dame winning the line of scrimmage on offense and defense.

The way to slow Ohio State down is to keep the offense on the sidelines. That suggests the Fighting Irish have to move the chains running the ball and hit play-action passes. That involves a steady diet of winning on first downs to set up third and short that allows offensive coordinator Tommy Rees to run or pass.

Ideally, tight end Michael Mayer and others at his position catch 10 or more balls. The offense also has to convert scoring chances into touchdowns, as field goals won’t cut it.

Can the Irish Defense Help Cover the Spread?

Coach Freeman’s defensive front seven is good enough to compete against Ohio State. The magic number for the defense would seem to be 31 points. Hold the Buckeyes to that or lower and that is a win for Notre Dame.

Ohio State will have well over 400 yards of offense, but if Freeman’s squad can force field goals and two or more turnovers, they could beat the college football odds.

What Should We Expect From Ohio State?

Because Ryan Day is such an aggressive coach, he makes overly aggressive mistakes when trailing. Give Ohio State a working margin and Day is relentless in attacking. The Buckeyes start hitting big plays and the offense will be unstoppable.

If this leads to the defense abandoning the run and Ohio State stop troops can pass rush and pinch Notre Dame’s ordinary wide receivers, this turn ugly.

Notre Dame vs. Ohio State: What Is the Outcome?

The total is 59, and given the point spread, that suggests Ohio State winning 38-21.

If the total goes Over, the Buckeyes cover with relative ease. If Notre Dame can do almost everything mentioned, they can stay within striking distance.

For our college football picks, let’s side with the underdog Irish who manage to fall 35-24 and cover. 

NCAAF Pick: Notre Dame +17.5 (-110) at BetMGM