Simulating and Projecting 2022 Notre Dame Schedule: Ohio State

2022 Notre Dame Schedule
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The Notre Dame 2022 schedule opens at Ohio State. It’s about as difficult an opener as one can draw up for the Irish. Projections, at some point, will become the same until the game is played. Notre Dame must find an answer in their secondary to counter C.J. Stroud and the lethal Buckeyes’ passing attack. Specifically, a matchup for Jaxon Smith-Njigba.  A matchup really thinks they have and that they might not find. 

But how about a different angle? Here’s a simulation between the two teams using their 2021-2022 rosters. We simulated 10 games against Ohio State using NCAA Game Sim. Let’s analyze the results, and discuss how the roster turnover heading into the fall could impact the results. 

2022 Notre Dame Schedule Simulation

Each game was simulated individually, but the results will be grouped by sets of five. 

Games 1-5

Quite frankly, this is an ugly look for the Irish. They take the loss in all five of these games, which isn’t necessarily surprising. However, the sheer number of absolute blowouts is overwhelming. The simulation gives Notre Dame absolutely zero chance at stopping Stroud or Smith-Njiba. On average, the Buckeyes posted 63.2 points. Notre Dame notched 19.6. Notre Dame did not come closer than 28 points (59-31). 

Another thing to note is the performances of some of the top returning players for each team. Stroud shredded the Irish secondary to the tune of 504 passing yards per contest. Smith-Njiba similarly torched Notre Dame, notching 162 yards a game. His low was 126. And the Buckeyes weren’t one-dimensional; they had a 100-yard rusher in all five simulations. 

For Notre Dame, they consistently got at least 60 yards from their leading rusher. And they generated 300+ through the air in three of five games. The name of the game was a lack of explosiveness, as they only got a 100+ yard receiving effort in two games. Tight end Michael Mayer didn’t exceed 81 yards. 

 

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Games 6-10

The odds of the Notre Dame 2022 schedule starting with a win don’t look any better in this set of simulations. The Irish were outscored 61-14 on average in these five games. Stroud threw for 517.6 yards per simulation, and Smith-Njigba roasted the Irish secondary for 184 yards on average. Ohio State only featured a 100-yard rusher in two contests, but it didn’t affect the Buckeyes’ output. 

The Irish came a little closer, narrowing their final gap to 20 points in one game, but they were held to seven or fewer points on three occasions. During their most successful game, the Irish got a solid 73-yard effort from Mayer, a 100-yard receiving effort, and turned the ball over just once. However, ultimately, Notre Dame, at least from the box score, didn’t frequently beat themselves. Rather, it was just a stifling effort from a high-performing Ohio State defense. 

Looking at roster changes

For Notre Dame, there are a few major changes. The Irish replace quarterback Jack Coan, wide receiver Kevin Austin, and running back Kyren Williams. Those three led in passing, receiving, and rushing yards in virtually every simulation. The good news for the Irish is their replacements should be ready to step in from the start. Sophomore Tyler Buchner projects as a high-end dual-threat that should elevate the Irish offense. Sophomores Logan Diggs and Lorenzo Styles replace Williams and Austin, respectively. The Irish running back room boasts four strong contributors, and the ground game shouldn’t suffer. The depth in the receiving room will be interesting to watch. Between Braden Lenzy, Styles, Joe Wilkins, and Avery Davis, the Irish have a host of returning receivers that should be able to fill Austin’s shoes. 

 

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Defensively, the Irish return a lot of production. But, like the Ohio State offense, it’s about what stays the same. The Irish cornerbacks remain the most questionable aspect of the defense. And with Smith-Njigba approaching in week one, that’s a huge concern. The Buckeyes return Stroud, Smith-Njigba, and starting running back TreVeyon Henderson. That’s three potential All-Americans and early Heisman candidates to stop. The biggest change offensively for the Buckeyes is a reworked offensive line that could be an issue early in the season. 

2022 Notre Dame schedule: Changing The Result?

The simulations didn’t really provide much of a path to victory for the Irish. However, it’s not without hope, although an Irish victory will require a major upset. Buchner will need to play basically mistake-free in his first collegiate start, and the Irish need a strong rushing attack from Diggs and junior Chris Tyree. The most points the Irish put up in any simulation was 31 points. That’ll be an absolute baseline for what the Irish need to score in order to pull an upset. Likely, they’ll need closer to 40 points. 

The Irish don’t need Buchner to win the game – they just need him to not lose it. A strong run game and mistake-free passing game could be enough for the Irish to post 30+. Expect the Buckeyes to make someone other than Mayer beat them, so Lenzy, Styles, and Co. need to be ready to step up and help their new starting quarterback. 

Containing The Buckeye Stars

Last year’s Michigan-Ohio State game might provide the best blueprint for the Irish. In that game, the Wolverines allowed 394 passing yards and two 100-yard receivers. But a lack of huge plays and a sustained pass rush made things tough for the Buckeyes. The Irish could achieve both those feats defensively. They should boast one of the most veteran and fearsome front fours in the country. Against a new offensive line, that could be Notre Dame’s key to success.

Against Smith-Njigba, the Irish can take the Drake London approach. Last year, against the eventual top-10 pick, the Irish surrendered 171 yards on 15 catches to London. But he averaged just over 11 yards per catch, didn’t score a touchdown, and really only managed one big catch. If the Irish take that approach and make someone else win the game for the Buckeyes, they have a chance to keep the Buckeyes under 40. With a strong pass rush, and maybe a big forced turnover from a star-like Brandon Joseph or Isaiah Foskey, the Irish need to do enough defensively and get a big day from their offense. 

Final Thoughts and Prediction

Will the Notre Dame 2022 schedule open as expected or with a stunning upset? Ultimately, here are the three keys to achieving the latter? 

Control Stroud and Smith-Njigba (less than 400 and 150 yards, respectively). 

Get a big pass rush (3+ sacks). 

A big-running effort from Diggs, Tyree, and Co. (250+ rushing yards). 

Ultimately, the simulation thinks this is a blowout waiting to happen. Freeman has a lot of momentum for the Irish, and Ohio State’s new offensive line may be a big weak point against Notre Dame’s biggest defensive strength. Notre Dame doesn’t win, but they keep it respectable.

Pick: Ohio State 41 Notre Dame 31

It’s going to take a lot from Notre Dame. The simulations don’t like Notre Dame’s chances, but there is a route to victory. Can Marcus Freeman avoid an 0-2 start to his coaching career? The Irish are just over three months from finding out.

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