Marcus Freeman faces pressure in Notre Dame debut against Ohio State

Training at Notre-Dame comes with enough pressure.

The fact that this is Marcus Freeman’s first time as head coach only multiplies it. Then add that extra bonus: His first game in that position is Saturday night at Ohio State, the Big Ten powerhouse he once played for.

It doesn’t get any harder, although Freeman, 36, is excited to take on the difficult task.

« Any competitor, you want the opportunity to go play against the best, » Freeman told reporters this week heading into the blockbuster opening weekend showdown. « There is no better way to see where we are as a football team. »

That’s indeed a good yardstick for Notre Dame, which lost a lot to last year’s 11-win team, including running back Kyren Williams, safety Kyle Hamilton, receiver Kevin Austin Jr. and quarterback Jack Coan.

Marcus Freeman understands the plot of the Notre Dame-Ohio State game better than anyone.

Ohio State enters the season ranked second in the nation, seen as the biggest threat to national championship favorites Alabama after failing to win the Big Ten East for the first time in five years. last fall.

Sophomore quarterback CJ Stroud, the first player in Big Ten history to be named Offensive Player, Quarterback and Rookie of the Year, is a Heisman Trophy contender and is joined by game breakers dynamic running back (TreVeyon Henderson) and wide receiver (Jaxon Smith-Njigba). Defense, the Buckeyes’ Achilles’ heel in their two losses last year, is still their main question mark, although new defensive coordinator Jim Knowles inherited plenty of talent after arriving in Columbus from of Oklahoma State.

It’s just the start of what could be a tough season for the fifth-ranked Fighting Irish. They’ll visit ACC contender North Carolina, face No. 25 BYU in Las Vegas, host No. 4 Clemson and Stanford, and close out the year at No. 14 USC.

The first step, however, is a trip to Ohio Stadium for a game as tough as anyone will play this season. In the long run, this could be beneficial for the Irish, especially if Freeman’s side play well. A win would be a major statement. Then again, it could easily go the other way against such a stacked opponent, especially a 17.5-point favorite.

« We’re going to use it in today’s team meeting – that’s good to know, » Freeman said. “I didn’t pay much attention to the spread. But I remember the one time we were at « College GameDay », I said, keep pushing up and up.

Here’s a look at the other big games from the first full weekend of the season:

No. 3 Georgia vs. No. 11 Oregon at Atlanta

Like Freeman at Notre Dame, Oregon’s Dan Lanning’s first game as head coach is quite the challenge: a flight across the country to face his former school, which remains loaded despite several defections in the professional ranks. . The Georgia defense, anchored by lineman Jalen Carter and linebacker Nolan Smith, will always be formidable, and the Bulldogs are returning quarterback Stetson Bennett IV and Brock Bowers, arguably the best tight end in the country.

Georgia defensive lineman Jalen Carter (88) hits a ball in the second half of Georgia's spring game, Saturday, April 16, 2022, in Athens, Ga.
Georgia defensive lineman Jalen Carter (88) searches for a fly ball in the second half of Georgia’s spring game.

No. 23 Cincinnati at No. 19 Arkansas

Both programs were surprises last year, with Cincinnati becoming the first Five-Five school to reach the playoffs and Arkansas winning its most games (nine) in a decade. Now comes the hardest part for every team: building on that success after losing key players to the NFL.

No. 7 Utah at Florida

For the balanced and experienced Utes to be playoff contenders, a win in Gainesville is a must to build early momentum. For that to happen, they will need to contain Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson, an electric dual threat who has shown glimpses of his immense potential in limited action as a rookie.

Florida State vs. LSU in New Orleans (Sunday)

The one game we’ve highlighted that doesn’t include a ranked team is fascinating nonetheless. Brian Kelly’s LSU debut will come against Florida State, which is coming off four straight losing seasons for the first time since the 1970s. Tigers would be a good place to start.

No. 4 Clemson vs. Georgia Tech in Atlanta (Monday)

The second year as a starter for DJ Uiagalelei gets a soft landing here in the ACC punching bag known as Georgia Tech. Anything less than a resounding victory and a good opener for Uiagalelei should be a concern for Clemson.


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