It may still be four months away, but Tuesday’s announcement that Ohio State’s season opener against Notre Dame will be a primetime, 7:30 p.m. kickoff on ABC made the start of football season appear that much closer.
The fact College GameDay will be in Columbus Week 1 makes it all the more exciting. Evening college football games are almost universally loved by fans, players and coaches alike. Really, the only group that prefers noon kickoffs instead are sportswriters, but I promise that’s not because we hate fun, it’s because it’s usually preferable to be home by 7 p.m. instead of working into the wee hours of the morning.
Long hours notwithstanding, this game deserves its place on the primetime pedestal. It’s the best game of college football’s opening slate, and has storylines galore from the history of the two programs to Marcus Freeman’s return to Columbus.
Beyond that, it’s a near certainty to be one of Ohio State’s biggest recruiting weekends of the entire season. It wouldn’t be surprising if it actually ended up being THE biggest recruiting weekend for a number of factors.
Ohio State’s home games against Wisconsin, Iowa and Michigan should draw big crowds, too, but the matchups with the Badgers or Hawkeyes don’t have the same luster as the Buckeyes vs. the Fighting Irish. As for the Michigan game, that’s already locked into a noon kickoff, which has its drawbacks that we’ll explain shortly.
The Notre Dame game, however, has all the elements needed to draw top recruits to Columbus from all over the country.
Night games good for out-of-state recruits
Ohio State hosted a flood of recruits for its games against Oregon, Michigan State and Penn State last season. But the Penn State game had the largest crowd of recruits in attendance largely because of an advantage the other two did not feature: a primetime kickoff slot.
Why is this a big deal? When Eleven Warriors talks with out-of-state recruits, they say they often have difficulty scheduling visits if the game they want to attend has an early kickoff time, because it’s difficult for them to travel to Columbus after playing in their high school game the night before.
Ohio State missed an opportunity to host a plethora of highly-touted West Coast recruits in Week 2 because of this exact scenario a year ago. Around seven or so targets from St. John Bosco, a premier football prep powerhouse in Bellflower, California, had to cancel their scheduled trip to Columbus for the Oregon game because their high school game Friday went longer than expected and the families missed their late-night flight. Five-star 2024 safety Peyton Woodyard was one of those seven recruits hoping to make a gameday visit to OSU last year, and he has already locked in a visit for the Notre Dame game.
With kickoff scheduled for 7:30 p.m., there won’t be any need for OSU’s staff or fans to hold their breath waiting to see if he and other priority out-of-state targets will be able to make it.
“The night game definitely makes it easier for my family and I to attend,” Woodyard told Eleven Warriors Tuesday. “We play Friday nights and if our game is televised, like it was last time, it’s very difficult to get there in time to catch a red eye out of LAX. This is perfect for me to fly out in time for the game.”
LeBron James might be there
OSU kicks off the year before the NBA begins its season, so there’s a real possibility the greatest basketball player ever to hail from Ohio will be in Columbus, especially since he was hellbent on finding out when the game was on social media.
What's the date of this??? Need it ASAP!! https://t.co/rhaEQkwCmB— LeBron James (@KingJames) May 17, 2022
It sounds silly to say out loud considering James never attended college, but it’s a lowkey flex for Ohio State that it can show off its facilities, gameday atmosphere and academic buildings to prospective recruits, then in the same breath turn around and say, “Oh yeah, by the way, I’d like you to meet LeBron.” That kind of star power can go a long way in a kid’s eyes.
While we’re focused more specifically on the football recruiting aspect of the weekend in this article, you’d be nuts to think Chris Holtmann won’t push to get every big-name basketball recruit on campus that weekend if James indeed plans on attending.
If nothing else, perhaps College GameDay has a very easy choice on who the guest picker will be if James does in fact make the trek to Ohio.
September 3rd. Celebrity picker?? https://t.co/LxgKlgKamg— Kirk Herbstreit (@KirkHerbstreit) May 17, 2022
It’s early in the calendar
If Ohio State has its way, the Buckeyes will try to wrap up most of their 2023 class in June when a good portion of their high-priority targets will take their official visits. But naturally, some recruitments will extend into the fall. Hosting those recruits for a Week 1 primetime game is another chance to make another great impression and inch closer to landing a few commitments ahead of the December signing period.
As evidenced by the past few recruiting classes, OSU’s preference is to have a good chunk of any recruiting cycle committed before signing day and not have to sweat it out that day. Getting recruits on campus for that Week 1 game could go a long way for the Buckeyes wrapping up their class sooner than later.
OSU can beat ND in recruiting battles, too
We’re all friends here, so we can admit freely that between now and September, you’re going to see a lot of articles from various outlets focusing on Ohio State and Notre Dame’s recruiting wins and losses against each other over recruiting cycles past, present and future.
While the subject will be beaten to death, it won’t make the fact OSU and Notre Dame compete for a good chunk of the same recruits any less true.
There’s been wins and losses on both sides. Most recently, OSU kept four-star 2023 offensive lineman Austin Siereveld home, though he was tempted by Notre Dame. Sonny Styles was pursued heavily by the Fighting Irish before he became a Buckeye. The Fighting Irish landed 2023 four-star Ohio defensive end Brenan Vernon, who had an offer from the Buckeyes.
Currently, the Buckeyes (and other schools) are trying to flip 2023 Notre Dame five-star defensive end commit Keon Keeley. Ohio State and Notre Dame are both contenders for five-star wide receiver Carnell Tate and appeared to be his top two suitors at one point, though Tennessee has since entered the picture. Both schools will be top contenders to land Woodyard.
On and on it goes, but Ohio State will get the chance to leave a lasting impression on recruits also heavily considering Notre Dame if it can beat the Fighting Irish while they’re on campus. Of course, recruits are not going to base their commitment entirely on the outcome of a single game, but every single talking point you can tilt in your favor matters.