Across the Field: Q&A with Notre Dame writer Pete Tyler Horka about Marcus Freeman and Irish chances fighting against Ohio State

Before every Ohio State game, the Eleven Warriors meet with a member of the media covering the opposing team to get their perspective on the Buckeyes’ next opponent.

As Notre Dame prepares for a trip to Columbus for the highly anticipated opening game of the season between the Buckeyes and the Fighting Irish at Ohio Stadium on Saturday, we invited Tyler Hurkacovering Notre Dame for Blue & Gold Illustrated, to answer some questions about the fifth-ranked team from South Bend.

Horka says there was plenty of excitement among Notre Dame fans about the start of the Marcus Freeman era and that Fighting Irish faithful enjoyed his comments that Ohio fans didn’t like. But Horka thinks it will be difficult for the Irish fighters to finish the season as high as they are now, and doesn’t think they are likely to beat the Buckeyes this weekend.

Marcus Freeman is entering his first season as head coach of Notre Dame. What differences did you see from the program under his leadership compared to Brian Kelly?

the heat: There is certainly more energy and cohesion now than there was this time a year ago. You can call it the honeymoon phase, but the honeymoon usually does not extend for months in a row. Notre Dame blew up a 21-point lead in the Fiesta Bowl and people are still excited and optimistic that this is the head coach leading the Fighting Irish to their first national title in 34 years.

How close this is to accuracy will be shown over the course of a 12-game season. But for now, players are convinced by a sense of renewal and revitalization. You can tell that even if they feel that any feelings of complacency have been eliminated. Notre Dame is “cool” again in a way it hasn’t since the near-perfect season in 2012.

Ohio State fans didn’t like when Freeman said he made the “wrong decision” to go to Ohio State at Notre Dame, and Buckeye fans didn’t like when he hinted that Ohio State’s academics aren’t as strict as Notre Dame. What do Irish fighting fans think of those comments?

the heat: They couldn’t get enough of the first comment. Some said he finally figured out what he was missing out on at the time. Others considered it against him that he did not make the “correct” choice in his enlistment. But both sides can come to an agreement that will eventually see the light. His comment was proof that Notre Dame is the best brand in the country.

As for the comment about academics, Notre Dame fans mostly had an attitude towards it, “Well, yeah, tell us something we didn’t know.” It had a 24-hour news cycle at best. It was not talked about two days later. Something tells me Ohio fans haven’t forgotten yet.

Notre Dame starts the season in the top five in both major polls. Do you think the Irish fighting ends there? What must happen to this Notre Dame team to make the CFP?

the heat: no i don’t. I expect the match to end 9-3 for the Irish.

Two things must happen to Marcus Freeman in the college football game. Freeman has to outsmart at least two of the top 10 coaches in college football (Ryan Day, Dabo Sweeney, and Lincoln Riley) who had Notre Dame on her schedule. Notre Dame does not play the play-off losing to two of these coaches. And the quarterback (Tyler Buchner) must be a sophomore. Freeman can’t beat these coaches’ teams alone. He needs an elite midfielder from someone who hasn’t started a game in his career at the time of writing these words.

Tyler Buchner will start his first career against Ohio State on Saturday. What did he do off season to land his starting job, and how do you expect him to perform against the Buckeyes?

the heat: Buchner was the same. He is incredibly athletic and a proven playmaker with his feet. He had to show off his dribbling with precision and prolific ability, and he did. I expect him to have some tension initially against the Buckeyes. It will not be flawless. He will make mistakes. But he will also perform plays and give the coaching staff of Notre Dame the confidence that they have someone who can start at Notre Dame for several years.

Tyler Buchner ran for 336 yards on just 46 buggies last season, and that running ability helped him win a Notre Dame prime job this year. (Photo: Matt Kashore – USA TODAY Sports)

Ohio is widely expected to have the highest attack in the country this year. How much do you think Notre Dame’s defense could slow down the Buckeyes?

the heat: Is anyone really capable of slowing these people down? Notre Dame may be doing some big plays. Defensive end Isaiah Fosky can pass a big bag and Brandon Joseph can get away with CJ Stroud. But it will be difficult to accumulate several stopping points in a row. I warn Notre Dame fans not to judge this Irish defense led by First Coordinator Al Golden in this one game. Notre Dame’s defense could be very good in 2022. Ohio State’s offense is likely to be even better.

Who are the Notre Dame players that Ohio State needs to spin off the Scouting Report?

the heat: Fosky and Joseph are on defence. Look for full-back Marist Leofau, who is back from a broken leg that ended the 2021 season before it even started. In attack, Lorenzo Styles, brother of Ohio State junior defensive back Sonny Styles, is a wide receiver expected to top Notre Dame wide. The Irish’s best passer is undoubtedly tight end Michael Mayer, although he could be a first-round pick in April. The three-headed monster running backwards trio of Chris Tyree (Speed), Audric Esteem (Strength) and Logan Diggs (Do It All) will be at the forefront of an intense attack.

How do you see the Saturday night game playing?

the heat: Ohio would be too much. Abuse a lot. Atmosphere too much. Feelings, especially for Freeman, are too many. The Buckeyes won by three points, 41-24, in a game that proves they are contenders for the national title.

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