Notre Dame football: Reasonable expectations against Marshall

Sep 3, 2022; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback Tyler Buchner (12) throws the ball against the Ohio State Buckeyes in the third quarter at Ohio Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Robertson-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 3, 2022; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback Tyler Buchner (12) throws the ball against the Ohio State Buckeyes in the third quarter at Ohio Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Robertson-USA TODAY Sports /

On Saturday, the Notre Dame football team takes on Marshall in their home opener, and here are some reasonable expectations for the Irish.

Notre Dame football and Marshall started their 2022 campaigns off on entirely different levels of play. The Irish went on the road to face a perennial playoff powerhouse, while the Thundering Herd stayed at home and played an FCS opponent who has won 6 or fewer games every year since 2015.

The Fighting Irish gave an effort worthy of a win against #2 Ohio State in the first half before the offense sputtered out in the second, while Marshall amassed 612 yards of offense, including 380 yards rushing (on 7.5 yards per attempt) against Norfolk State.

Despite all of this and the fact that Marshall holds a winning record while the Irish do not, Las Vegas favors the Irish by 20.5 points on Saturday. I expect this to hold, and I will explain why as I lay out my expectations for the Irish when they take on Marshall.

Notre Dame football: Reasonable expectations against Marshall

Notre Dame football Gets the Running Game Going

The Ohio State game was a rude awakening for Notre Dame’s backfield group. Each has shown his ability in the past, whether it was last season or during training camp, but Estime, Tyree, and Diggs were all very ineffective against the Buckeyes.

The Marshall defense the Irish will be facing this week looks very little like the tough Ohio State defense faced in week one. In 2021, Marshall allowed 190 rush yards per game and 395 total yards per game, so there will be opportunities for all three of our backs to make their impact on the game.

Something has to give because 76 rush yards (total from the Ohio State game) is not the standard at Notre Dame. I expect the Irish to showcase an explosive and dynamic rushing attack on Saturday, one that uses all three running backs as well as Tyler Buchner. If I were to make a prediction, I would say that Audric Estime will have the best showing against Marshall in a game that allows him to impose his will on their defense.

Tommy Rees’ Playcalling Will Allow Tyler Buchner to Shine

Offensive coordinator and play-caller Tommy Rees did his best to ease Tyler Buchner into the game against Ohio State, to not overwhelm him, and to avoid bad decisions and turnovers. I was in full support of this strategy, until the third quarter when Rees’ conservative calls cost Notre Dame football all of its offensive momentum.

The Irish became predictable on first and second downs, leading to several third and long situations that are not at all ideal situations on the road against a top 5 team. I am looking for Rees to let Buchner toss it around on first down more in week two.

TB has an elite arm, he showed that against the Buckeyes, and the matchup with Marshall should be an opportunity for him to get his confidence up even more and push the ball downfield to Lenzy, Styles, Mayer, and company all day long.

Notre Dame’s Front Seven Plays at an Elite Level

The Irish defense was on the field for a long time in the second half against Ohio State. Their fatigue was evident on an OSU touchdown drive that covered 95 yards in 14 plays and 7 minutes. As the offense continued to struggle in the second half, the defense fell a step behind the Buckeyes, letting them steal the momentum.

This lack of energy kept the Irish front seven out of the backfield and away from CJ Stroud, and the Irish came away with only one sack in the season opener, courtesy of Howard Cross III. Against Marshall, look for 4 or 5 sacks from the Irish defensive linemen and linebackers. The defense should remain active and energized all day long against the Marshall offense and play like the elite group they proved to be at times last season.

One guy, in particular, I’ll be watching closely is Isaiah Foskey. A first-round NFL talent like him has to step up against teams like Marshall and make an impact. I believe he will do just that.

Basic Expectations for Notre Dame football

This Saturday when you’re watching the Irish look for a rejuvenated run game, improved playcalling, and a party in the backfield for the Irish front seven. With these parts of the Notre Dame attack improved upon, the Irish should be looking at a convincing victory in front of home fans.