Welcome back to our series called 99 Things. These are 99 things we are excited about for the upcoming college football season. If you have missed any part of this series, make sure to check out our previous posts. Today we are talking about one of the most exciting games of the upcoming season. Notre Dame travels to Columbus to face Ohio State Labor Day weekend. As an Ohio State season ticket holder, I am excited for this game. As someone who has a fall wedding to attend on this day, I am furious (blame my fiancé, no I’m not breaking up with her because ring was too expensive).
The storylines around this game are already building. Marcus Freeman will start off his first season as the head coach of Notre Dame by traveling to his alma mater. Freeman played linebacker for the Buckeyes from 2004 to 2008. ESPN already announced it will be their primetime game with College Gameday in attendance. CJ Stroud and Jaxon Smith-Njigba are already being hyped up as the most dynamic duo for the 2022 season. Unofficial preseason polls indicate this should be a top 15 matchup with the potential of it being a top 10 matchup.
Notre Dame will be breaking in a new quarterback after Jack Coan’s eligibility ran out. Steve Angeli, Drew Pyne and Tyler Buchner are all vying to be the starting quarterback for the Fighting Irish. Pyne and Buchner both saw playing time last year while Angeli is a true freshman this year. Reports state Angeli has been impressive and could push for the starting position. We will wait to see if Freeman would be comfortable starting a true freshman in a stadium who’s atmosphere he knows very well.
The Fighting Irish will also be replacing offensive skill players Kevin Austin Jr and Kyren Williams. One player expected to step up will be wide receiver Lorenzo Styles Jr. Styles’ brother, Sonny Styles(Linebacker), just signed with Ohio State back in December after reclassifying. We are unlikely to see any Styles vs Styles matchups since Sonny has not stepped on campus yet. Chris Tyree split carries with Williams last year but is expected to be the primary running back entering this season. Logan Diggs and Audric Estime should also see time in the backfield.
While Notre Dame is breaking in new offensive players, Ohio State will be breaking in a new defensive scheme. Ryan Day replaced most of his defensive staff from last season and brought in Jim Knowles from Oklahoma State. Knowles helped Oklahoma State’s defense finish 9th in points per game allowed. The Buckeye defense returns Zach Harrison, Ronnie Hickman, and Denzel Burke who were all conference players on a subpar defense. Knowles will need to rely on these players to help improve the defense.
Ohio State’s offense will be the talking point for the rest of the summer. CJ Stroud is expected to be a Heisman finalist once again after throwing for over 4,400 yards and 44 touchdowns. His favorite target will be Jaxon Smith-Njigba who hauled in 15 receptions for 347 yards and three touchdowns in the Rose Bowl. The duo of Stroud to Smith-Njigba should be one of the most dynamic in the country as both are projected to be first round picks in the 2023 NFL Draft. The Buckeyes also have a talented sophomore running back in TreVeyon Henderson. Henderson burst onto the scene as a freshman rushing for over 1,200 yards and totaled 19 touchdowns. The Fighting Irish will have one of the best defenses in the country but will it be enough to slow down the Buckeyes?
Rarely do we have premier matchups in week one of the college football season and we are lucky enough to have two incredible games (Oregon vs Georgia will be a different post). Two iconic brands will meet Labor Day weekend and I will be tuned in via my phone. I hope the rest of you enjoy it!