Notre Dame Head Coach Marcus Freeman entered his tenure at the front end of one of the toughest recent stretches of scheduling I can recall. The Irish went from the hardest game of the year being Cincinnati at home (which Kelly couldn’t handle) his last year to a slate that contains 3 top 5 programs 2 years in a row. Welcome to the big leagues Marcus!
Ohio State, USC, and Clemson are the big three. Each present and represent unique challenges for Notre Dame that will have long-lasting consequences both in terms of national perception and recruiting credibility.
Let’s take a look at these three matchups individually to see what’s at stake.
Ohio State-Sept 23
Sep 17, 2022; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback C.J. Stroud (7) and Ohio State Buckeyes wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. (18) celebrate after connecting for a touchdown during Saturday’s NCAA Division I football game against the Toledo Rockets at Ohio Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Barbara Perenic/Columbus Dispatch Ncaa Football Toledo Rockets At Ohio State Buckeyes
Ohio State vs Notre Dame in South Bend on a warm late September night? As a college football fan, you can’t beat that in terms of “big game” buildup. Notre Dame held tough with OSU at the Horseshoe last year but couldn’t pull off the upset primarily due to the Irish offense being unable to sustain drives with a young QB in a hostile road environment.
This year the roles are reversed. Notre Dame is at home. And possibly even more importantly, the Irish will have a proven starting QB in Hartman while OSU will be the team breaking in a new signal caller on the big stage. Can the Irish beat the most recent team from the midwest to win a title and parlay the win into recruiting prowess over the Buckeyes? That’s the dream.
USC- Oct 14
Nov 26, 2022; Los Angeles, California, USA; Southern California Trojans quarterback Caleb Williams (13) runs the ball against Notre Dame Fighting Irish defensive lineman Aiden Gobaira (91) during the first half at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Notre Dame vs USC is not just a football battle. For many in the Irish fan base, including yours truly, it’s a yearly existential war between good and evil. Doing things right vs cutting corners, Catholicism vs Hollyweird. I know this may sound dramatic, but the contrasts between how these 2 powers operate couldn’t be more apparent.
Notre Dame became what it is today largely based off this game over the decades. It makes me smile to think of Knute and Frank loading the boys on a train and heading west to do damage to the Trojans. This game is played every year, holds ultimate importance to Irish fans and Coach Freeman needs to do all he can to avoid starting 0-2 against this group of recently purchased talent donning maroon. This game matters more than all others every year and should.
Clemson- Nov 4
Nov 5, 2022; South Bend, Indiana, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish running back Logan Diggs (3) runs the ball against the Clemson Tigers in the third quarter at Notre Dame Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports
Clemson has turned into a terrific measuring stick game for Notre Dame recently. Despite the Irish losing badly to a dominant 2018 Clemson team that won the title, the Irish have fought back and beat Clemson a couple of times since then, and did so quite convincingly at home last year.
This year, however, the Irish go on the road to face Clemson at their place with an exciting young QB in Cade Klubnik and a new Offensive Coordinator, Garret Riley. Can the Irish get wins against Clemson in back-to-back years and show that the program has taken the next step? Time will tell.
All three of these matchups present unique challenges and unique stakes in the national spotlight with everything on the line. The traditional Notre Dame way!
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