Whereas the large media retailers fall throughout themselves to slurp Deion Sanders, there’s an precise marquee matchup Saturday that might have actual ramifications for the School Soccer Playoff. No. 6 Ohio State and No. 9 Notre Dame are set to complete their home-and-home stand in South Bend, and it ought to be a vastly extra entertaining recreation than the opening week slugfest a 12 months in the past, and check each quarterbacks.
The Combating Irish’s Sam Hartman has been on loads of massive phases, however by no means like this, and by no means with a staff pretty much as good as Marcus Freeman’s group. There’s even Heisman buzz across the Wake Forest switch, who to this point has accomplished 71 % of his passes for 13 touchdowns to zero interceptions.
NC State is the one opponent of (semi) excessive reputation that the Irish have confronted, and so they smashed the Wolfpack in a sloppy, weather-delayed contest at Raleigh. Early-season monsoon video games within the ACC are all the time tough, and although Hartman definitely has his fair proportion of expertise with them, every thing is totally different underneath the stress and scrutiny of the Golden Dome.
Now, the sixth-year QB goes up in opposition to an Ohio State protection that’s gifted, however — at the least in accordance with the restricted pattern dimension — is as a lot of an unknown as new Buckeye quarterback Kyle McCord. (Extra on him in a second.) The rationale I’m so excessive on Notre Dame is due to Hartman.
Working again Audric Estime isn’t going for eight yards per carry Saturday, and it’ll inevitably fall on the passing recreation to maintain drives, and get into the endzone. Now that there’s a reliable man who might be greater than a recreation supervisor, the Irish are balanced, explosive, and placing up 50 factors per outing.
Hartman’s arrival does for the Irish what Russell Wilson did for that Wisconsin staff: A legit QB, combined with that degree of expertise, is a recipe for a playoff contender.
What McCord is Ohio State getting?
In his first three begins for the Buckeyes, the junior quarterback confirmed flashes. Any QB at Ohio State this century has the requisite instruments to place up Heisman numbers and win 10-plus video games per season, in order that’s not a shock. What does concern me is it’s not coming as simply because it did for the earlier 150 quarterbacks underneath Ryan Day’s tutelage.
McCord didn’t break 300 yards till final week, didn’t throw for a landing in opposition to Indiana in Week 1, and he was formally named QB1 previous to the Western Kentucky recreation, which isn’t regular for that program. If McCord struggles like he did in opposition to the Hoosiers, and so they get beat by the Irish, analysts are going to ask questions, and deal with it like Jalen Milroe and Alabama.
Count on to see lots of operating again TreVeyon Henderson as a result of I don’t understand how a lot of a leash McCord goes to get at evening, on the street, and in a hostile setting. A season in the past in Columbus, Notre Dame’s protection held C.J. Stroud to 223 yards passing, Henderson to 91 yards operating, and the Buckeyes to 21 factors.
Sure, that was sufficient to win with Tommy Rees calling the performs and Tyler Buchner operating them, but it surely gained’t be that simple Saturday. The timing of this recreation — Week 4 as a substitute of the season opener — additionally means it ought to be a crisper affair than in 2022, and that bodes properly for the viewers in addition to the offenses.
Marvin Harrison Jr. has been McCord’s finest good friend this season, and after that, it’s tight finish Cade Stover. These two should play properly and win constantly no matter protection as a result of Notre Dame goes to make McCord beat them. I’ll be shocked if both squad actually goes wild on the bottom, and the Buckeyes have to do higher than their season common on third down (35 %) to regulate this recreation.
It feels apparent to say, “The staff whose quarterback performs higher will win,” but isn’t that the case 9 occasions out of 10? Which is why Saturday’s recreation is so tasty. This could function a barometer for every program’s quarterback, and thus, playoff possibilities.