Last week was a disappointment, as a good matchup with Denver went by the wayside due to weather. The break gave Ohio State that much more time to prepare for Notre Dame, however, which can only be a good thing.
The Fighting Irish have been completely dominant against the Buckeyes, sometimes embarrassingly so. Additionally, Notre Dame is coming in with a revamped offense and oodles of 4- and 5-star recruits all over the field. This will be a great game, and should give us a sense of how much this Buckeye team has improved.
Offensively, Notre Dame is pretty much unrecognizable from the teams we've seen the past decade or so. Under the previous OC (now at Colgate), the Fighting Irish were all alley dodges, swinging through X, and attacking the backside.
This season, especially in the win against Michigan, Notre Dame is utilizing wing dodges and inverts almost exclusively. On multiple goals, Notre Dame started with a dodge from the high wing on the right side (goalie's right), did a right-to-right split over the top, and nailed a 12 to 15 yard shot from the middle of the field. Another wrinkle the Irish like to throw in is hitting a man on the back post after beating the defensive middie with the high wing dodge. TTUN let in a couple goals that way too on Tuesday.
If those don't work, you will see the ball transition to X, where one of the attackmen looks to beat his man and wrap around from X. Notre Dame averages 12.3 goals per game, but doesn't have anyone with more than 18 points. Senior Brendan Gleeson (#9) has registered those 18 points to lead Notre Dame in scoring. 3 other players have at least 10 goals. Ohio State will need to shut down the topside dodging of Notre Dame to really have a shot at reversing recent trends.
Defensively, Notre Dame has pretty much owned the Buckeyes for years. A few years ago, the Fighting Irish blanked the Buckeyes 9-0. Scoring more than 10 goals on Notre Dame has been a very, very difficult achievement for Ohio State.
Tomorrow, every Buckeye will need to be at their best to make sure that trend doesn't continue. Of some comfort is the fact that the Buckeyes have 3 players with over 20 points, including true freshman Jack Myers with a team-leading 24. In one fewer game played than the rest of the team!
The Notre Dame defense is largely faceless, but is so good as a group that Myers, Leclaire, and company will need to be at their sharpest to get the W.
In goal, Sophomore Matthew Schmidt (#41) has had an unspectacular start to the year after a strong freshman season. He currently is sporting a save percentage of .476, allows 9.37 goals per game, and only has 50 saves through 6 games.
He is certainly beatable, so the Buckeye offense should have opportunities to punish the Irish for defensive mistakes. Josh Kirson has been solid for OSU this year, and could be the difference if the Buckeyes want to pull the upset.
At the faceoff X, Notre Dame will trot out junior Charles Leonard (#47) the majority of the time. Leonard is a respectable 56% on the year, winning 74 of 132 draws. Against TTUN, Leonard went OFF, going 20 for 24 and helping the Irish stay ahead through some rough patches. Justin Inacio will have his work cut out for him.
On special teams, Notre Dame is not particularly great on Man Up or Man Down. The Irish are converting 35.7% of their opportunities, while opponents have converted 40.0% of the time when Notre Dame has been man down.
Repeating once more, the Buckeyes HAVE to be better about committing penalties, or this could be a game they lose unnecessarily. Either way, this will be a scrap.
All in all, Notre Dame has better wins than the Buckeyes, but also 2 more losses. Tomorrow we find out what the Buckeyes are made of this year. Should be a squeaker, but I still think the Buckeyes pull it out.
Final Prediction: 10-9, Bucks in OT.