Even though the NCAA basketball tournament is now in full swing—games almost all day long—real Ohio State fans are always thinking about football. And it’s all too easy to think ahead of the 2022 football season because Notre Dame Fighting Irish will be at Ohio Stadium on Saturday, September 3 for the two teams’ opening game. The game is important for many reasons. Practically speaking, the rivalry between the two is becoming increasingly heated in the recruitment path, and this game is sure to have some influence on that at least.
But from the point of view of the story, it is distinctive simply because of the semi-royal lineage that the Buckeyes and the Irish have.
Why is it important
In the era of the four-team college playoff system, the team can’t afford to lose too many. In fact, no team with more than one loss has qualified for the playoffs. For this simple reason, every game counts, and it’s this fact that makes watching college football so fun (unlike the NFL, where a 500-team record can sometimes “win” a place great). Most importantly, both teams will rank highly. Not surprisingly, the NCAA rankings for 2022 look like this: 1. Alabama, 2. Ohio State, 3. Ohio State, 3. Georgia, 4. Texas A&M, 5. Notre Dame. Do you understand what I mean? There is a lot at stake. The winner gets a higher quality win and boosts the higher ranking.
Recruitment is also at stake. The Buckeyes and Irish are both national powers, and both recruit nationally. But they are also Midwest powers and compete head-to-head in Ohio, Michigan, Indiana and Pennsylvania. Win this big game, and you have a recruiting advantage over your competitor.
All of these facts, though, would be the same if Ohio State were to play some other strength early in the season. Ranking, recruiting capabilities, and bankruptcy will be similarly affected in games against Oregon, Texas or Oklahoma. But Notre Dame is different and unique.
If we ignore, for now, TTUN, the top five winning team football programs are grouped closely together, even after 120 years of playing the game. Alabama is second after winning the national title last year. Ohio comes in third, and Notre Dame comes in fourth. In terms of Heisman Trophy recipients, Ohio, Notre Dame, and Oklahoma state all schools with seven schools each. Southern Cal has six, Alabama has four. Year after year, these are the best software. These are the national brands. True blue blood.
Let me give some examples of the Irish mystery.
Like I mentioned before, I grew up in Columbus, in Grandview, actually. My dad used to work in the radio broadcast booth at OSU Games. I’ve been a Buckeye fan for as long as I can remember. But… Ralph Guglielmi lived next door. And I worshiped him. You have to be old to remember a Grandview High graduate, of course. Suffice it to say he played quarterback at Notre Dame, which made the all-American consensus after the 1954 season. He went on to play eight, or so seasons, in the NFL, mostly with the Washington Redskins. But he still lives in Grandview, and my friends and I have seen him from time to time. Point to it and stick to it. He wasn’t just a great footballer. He was a midfielder for Notre Dame. Like Paul Hornung. Like Joe Montana. golden.
When I moved to Chicago as a teenager, I was soon introduced to high school football in the Chicago Catholic League. Catholic League teams scouted public school teams and offered sports scholarships to players they wanted, and sometimes jobs to their own. And Notre Dame? The Irish treated the Catholic League as an agricultural system. I knew many guys who had spotted the Chicago high school scene for the Irish, and we all knew every Catholic kid’s dream was to fit in at Notre Dame. Every single one of them was probably Rudy.
Notre Dame did not need a conference. Everyone wanted to play it. The Irish practically had their own television network, and their games were televised long before there were major conference networks. Notre Dame will lose money by joining the conference. And who watches those Irish matches against Boston College on NBC? Men love my father-in-law. He lives in Charleston, South Carolina, and was not at all interested in Clemson or South Carolina. He was a Catholic. He followed Notre Dame religiously and monitored them every week. They were his team. Catholic team. I also love the New York Yankees. He liked winners. Except for Ohio. Rivals of the Irish, he didn’t care much about the Buckeyes.
There’s just just something about those blue and gold uniforms, gold helmets that match the golden dome of the iconic campus building. It is unique. And the song of the fight. I remember hearing Pete Carroll say in an interview that he knew the USC Trojans were in trouble when he found himself humming to an ND fight song while heading to the locker room in the first half.
Despite their origins, their opponents, Ohio State and Notre Dame, don’t play much. In fact, only six times previously. The Bucks are riding a four-game winning streak. The two Irish victories go back a long way: ND 18 and OSU 13 at Columbus in 1935 and ND 7 and OSU 2 at South Bend the following year. The two teams played two more series on home soil and at home in 1995 and 1996, and the Buckeyes took both series, 45-26 and 29-16, respectively. The two then met at the Fiesta Bowls after the 2005 season and after the 2015 season.
The Bucks got the first game 34-20. You might remember the AJ Hawk and Brady Quinn story of human interest. and Laura Quinn (Hook’s fiancée at the time, Quinn’s sister) wears her half-and-half shirtsaws in the stands. The Fiesta Bowl on January 1, 2016 was the consolation prize for what should have been a consecutive National Championship year. Alas. But the Buckeyes were all over the Irish for this game. The thing I remember from this is that Joey Bossa ended his career at Ohio State University when he was fired for targeting.
So, going into the 2022 match, there is a short but storied history. With Buckeye Marcus Freeman taking over as former Irish coach, his start offers another story. As is the case with the hiring of former Bacai, James Laurentius, as the coach of his linebacker. Gorgeous!
Enjoy basketball, but don’t let the Ohio State game between Ohio State and Notre Dame in the fall get out of your mind.