Buckeyes pointed toward much-anticipated opener vs. (*12*) Dame

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(*(*28*)*)Each week, this will be our first taste of what Ohio State will face the following week. We hope this gives you some riveting reading each week. Here is our First Look at (*12*) Dame-

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(*(*28*)*)(*8*)* Opponent- (*12*) Dame

(*(*28*)*)(*8*)* Date, Time, TV- Saturday, 7-30 p.m., ESPN

(*(*28*)*)(*8*)* Location- Ohio Stadium

(*(*28*)*)(*8*)* 2021 Records- Ohio State, 11-(*(*30*)*) overall, 8-1 Big Ten (tied for first in Eastern Division), defeated Utah in Rose Bowl; (*12*) Dame, 11-(*(*30*)*) overall, lost to Oklahoma State in Fiesta Bowl.

(*(*28*)*)(*8*)* Coach- Marcus Freeman

(*(*28*)*)(*8*)* Players To Watch- QB Tyler Buckner, RB Chris Tyree, WR Braden Lenzy, WR Lorenzo Styles Jr., TE Michael Mayer, DT Jayson Ademilola, DE Isaiah Foskey, WLB J.D. Bertrand, CB Clarence Lewis

(*(*28*)*)(*8*)* NCAA Rankings (2020 Rankings)- Offense- Total, 426.(*(*30*)*) ypg (45th nationally); rushing, 143.8 ypg (83rd); passing, 282.5 ypg (20th); scoring, 35.(*(*30*)*) ppg (19th). Defense- Total, 359.5 ypg (43rd); rushing, 135.3 ypg (37th); passing, 224.(*(*30*)*) ypg (64th); scoring, (*30*).7 ppg (15th).

(*(*28*)*)(*8*)* AP Poll Rankings- Ohio State is second in the AP preseason poll, while (*12*) Dame is fifth.

(*(*28*)*)(*8*)* The Setting- Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith played his college football at (*12*) Dame in the early 1970s. He has done his best to set up attractive home-and-home nonconference series for the Buckeyes to play. So it was a natural about eight years ago when it was announced that Ohio State and (*12*) Dame would play a home-and-home in 2022 and 2023.

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(*(*28*)*)The long wait for this game – both from eight years ago and this eight-month off-season – is over and it is finally game week.

(*(*28*)*)Ohio State fashions itself as a national championship contender behind the quarterback C.J. Stroud, wideout Jaxson Smith-Njigba and what coach Ryan Day hopes is a much improved defense. This is the first of eight home games for OSU. This best-ever home schedule also includes Wisconsin, Iowa, Michigan and four other games.

(*(*28*)*)(*12*) Dame will bring its new coach (former Buckeye Marcus Freeman) and new quarterback (Tyler Buchner) into a hostile opposing stadium. The crowd, expected in excess of 105,000, figures to make life very difficult for the Fighting Irish.

(*(*28*)*)Ohio State has not lost a season opener since 1999 (the Kickoff Classic vs. Miami) or a home season opener since 1978 (vs. Penn State). (*12*) Dame, conversely, has won its last 10 true road games dating to a 2019 loss at Michigan.

(*(*28*)*)OSU fans will be watching closely to see if the defense truly has improved. If the Buckeyes can get after Buchner and force him into mistakes or turnovers, that would go a long way toward an improved showing for the defense.

(*(*28*)*)Yes, it will be a homecoming for Freeman. But he will also have former Buckeye linebacker and his close friend James Laurinaitis with him as an assistant coach. Plus, recent OSU linebackers coach Al Washington Jr. is also on the ND coaching staff.

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(*(*28*)*)Ohio State opened as a (*28*)-point favorite and that pointspread his ballooned to 17 as oddsmakers and bettors see the Buckeyes holding serve at home.

(*(*28*)*)(*8*)* Steve Says- Well, this is one of the most remarkable season openers I can recall in my now 28 years of doing this fulltime. You couple the few times Ohio State and (*12*) Dame have played historically with the enormity of the match-up with a pair of top-five teams and it’s hard to imagine anything that would live up to this type of billing or hype. It is just the third time (*12*) Dame will visit Ohio Stadium.

(*(*28*)*)It’s a nonconference game, so win or lose it has no impact on the Big Ten race. But if the Buckeyes consider themselves as a national championship front runner for 2022, every game is a must win. Any loss would put this talented team in peril of not even qualifying for the College Football Playoff (and OSU found that out the hard way in 2015 and 2018).

(*(*28*)*)Beating (*12*) Dame would mean the world in terms of recruiting as well as just bragging rights in these parts. Nobody under the age of 90, roughly, can say they have ever seen (*12*) Dame defeat Ohio State. The Buckeyes want to keep it that way, certainly.

(*(*28*)*)Those intending to go to the game should plan to come down to campus early and stay way late. It figures to be some kind of spectacle.

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(*(*28*)*)It is a good, young (*12*) Dame team with some impressive playmakers. It just seems like a tall order to expect ND to be able to pull this one out. Perhaps by the end of the season, Buchner will have his feet under him and ND will be a legitimate top-five or top-10 team.

(*(*28*)*)I guess if my team has to play (*12*) Dame this year, I would rather play them in Week 1 than in Week 11 or 12. And we already know the shoe will probably be on the other foot next year, when Ohio State (with a new quarterback in tow) will go to (*12*) Dame and play. That game will at least be in Week 3, however.

(*(*28*)*)We will have more on this match-up throughout the week. OSU coach Ryan Day have his weekly press conference on Tuesday. OSU players and an assistant coach will be available after practice Wednesday and Day will have a (*3*) Q&A session with the media following his weekly radio show on Thursday.

(*(*28*)*)We will have our Game Data preview on Wednesday. Our weekly Ohio State Buckeyes Live webcast will be at 1-30 p.m. Wednesday. We will share our picks for Week 1 on Thursday. And of course we will be at Ohio Stadium on Saturday to provide complete coverage of this landmark opener.

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