COLUMBUS — No. 6 Ohio State has reached the quarter pole of the season unscathed and showing improvement each week, but one of the season’s most difficult tests lies ahead for the Buckeyes as they prepare to take on No. 9 Notre Dame (4-0) in South Bend, Indiana, on Saturday.
For just the eighth time in the history of their storied programs, the two college football giants are set to meet in primetime in a game that will likely have heavy implications on the College Football Playoff race. On Tuesday, head coach Ryan Day met with the media to recap his team’s dominant performance over Western Kentucky and to preview the highly-anticipated clash with the Fighting Irish.
After two weeks of mixed results, the Ohio State defense held Western Kentucky’s high-flying pass offense in check, while its offense enjoyed, by far, its best day in the 63-10 beatdown. Coming off a badly needed strong showing, Day said his team is heading into this week’s preparation feeling good about where they stand.
“We’ve got some confidence going into this game, we’ve got a rhythm, and now we have to have a great week of practice,” Day said.
Following last week’s win, Day said the entire team was challenged earlier in the week to ramp up its play to coincide with a schedule that is becoming progressively more difficult. The team responded well to that challenge, a fact Day was pleased with in his postgame press conference.
Now faced with a road game against a premier opponent in what is sure to be a charged-up environment, Day is once again challenging his team to take its intensity to a higher level.
“We don’t have a choice,” he said. “That’s what we have to do. This is a top-10 game on the road, and these kinds of games are why you come to Ohio State. This is an exciting series because it’s not something that happens very often — Ohio State and Notre Dame. Two of the bigger teams in the Midwest getting together for a home-and-home. Last year’s atmosphere was electric, and it will be the same way on Saturday night, so our guys are really fired up for this.”
Notre Dame is led by sixth-year senior quarterback Sam Hartman, who transferred from Wake Forest this offseason after throwing for nearly 13,000 yards across five seasons. Hartman has been great through four games at Notre Dame, completing more than 70% of his passes for 1,061 yards, 13 touchdowns, and no interceptions.
But while Hartman poses a serious threat to the Ohio State defense, Notre Dame’s offensive identity remains tied to its ability to run the ball with talented running back Audric Estime and an offensive line that features two potential NFL draft picks at offensive tackle in Joe Alt and Blake Fisher.
That fact is not lost on Day, who said he expects the game to come down to who can consistently win at the line of scrimmage and who can last all four quarters in the most physical game of the early season.
“They have a really good team,” Day said. “Marcus (Freeman) does a great job. They have a great staff. So, we have to go win a top-10 game on the road. Our guys are really excited for this game. You could see it Sunday, you could even see it yesterday, that guys are buzzing around. It’ll come down to who wants to compete more.”
Day went on to say, “These are great moments. This is the highest level of college football, and all eyes will be on this game. That’s the way we love it.”
Reach Dillon Davis at 740-413-0904. Follow him on Twitter @DillonDavis56.