The Notre Dame football team takes on Ohio State in Week 1 of the college football season, and here are some defensive keys to stop them.
It is no big secret that the Ohio State Buckeyes are loaded on the offensive side of the ball, but the Irish could put together a game plan to stop them on Saturday night.
Notre Dame football: Defensive keys against Ohio State
How the Irish can Contain Ohio State: A Comprehensive Guide
September 3rd, 2022 is in all likelihood going to be biggest Saturday of the year for Notre Dame. Ohio State is more than a scary opponent; they are an opponent that boasts not one, not two, but three potential Heisman candidates on offense.
Those players being QB CJ Stroud, who already was a Heisman finalist last year, WR Jaxon Smith-Njigba (who had over 300 yards receiving in the Rose Bowl last season), and RB Treveyon Henderson. It’s almost unheard of for a single team to boast this much firepower, and yet the Irish have to figure out how to stymie college football’s most potent offense. While challenging, this task is not impossible.
I’m going to talk about three specific things the Irish absolutely must accomplish in order to have a successful day on defense against the Buckeyes.
Outside Integrity: Containing OSU’s Wide Receivers
Notre Dame knows what’s coming. Stroud and company are going to look to spread the ball all over the field and really test Notre Dame’s secondary, specifically the corners, who have struggled in single coverage over the years.
Cam Hart will most likely line up across from Smith-Njigba, and to me, the single biggest aspect of the game for the ND defense is not calling much zone coverage for Hart early on. I think he needs to feel out Smith-Njigba one on one and make a play early to help his confidence and deter the deep ball we all know is coming on that first drive for the Buckeyes.
If Hart struggles early, then adjustments have to be made but I think allowing him to play in this spotlight is the best thing the Irish can do early on. We have to trust our guys, too. The other matchup to watch is Tariq Bracey matched up with Marvin Harrison Jr, but the same applies to Bracey in his matchup.
Safety Support: Disguise Ways to Drop Two Safeties Deep
If the Irish decide to allow their best corners to work in man coverage early, there should also be a way to have insurance on the back end of the defense if the man coverage fails at any point. Playing two safeties deep consistently early on is a great way to do that.
Defensive Coordinator Al Golden should stunt safety blitzes and design different zone packages to sure up the back end of the defense when Ohio State attempts to push the ball down field, especially on plays in between the numbers.
The safeties also have to be responsible for helping out ND linebackers who will inevitably get stuck in coverage against tight ends and receivers at some point in the game.
Intensity Off the Edge: Getting Pressure on CJ Stroud
Isaiah Foskey will be in the national spotlight against the Buckeyes and will make an impression one way or another. Foskey is Notre Dame’s biggest asset on defense. He is a game changer who can take over games with his pass rush ability.
2021 saw Foskey have 10 sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss, and he has every opportunity to blow these numbers out of the water in 2022. There is no better way to get off to a fast start than to have a multi-sack or otherwise high impact game against the number two team in the country in week one.
I think Notre Dame should blitz as much as possible early, in as many different and exotic ways as possible. Jack Kiser, Jayson Ademilola and company have to compliment Foskey and make Stroud feel the pressure early, especially if double teams on Foskey begin. The Buckeyes need to be kept wondering what is going to happen on every play.
This trend will fit nicely with the man coverage theme I mentioned earlier, and still allows for two high safety looks to be effective to help sure up the man coverage ND should be focusing on.
If Notre Dame is able to stick to these defensive philosophies, I believe they will be able to find success against OSU. Simply due to the nature of Ohio State’s explosive offense, it probably won’t be possible to stop them all game long, but this is the formula that gives ND the best shot to win in Colombus on Saturday night.