As Notre Dame’s defense prepares to take on Ohio State, Brian Kelly has talked about the similarities between the Irish’s offense and the system Urban Meyer deploys. Turns out, the Buckeyes coaching staff thinks the same thing.
More than a few Irish fans raised an eyebrow when Kelly made the comments last week. Whether that’s because of what Meyer’s done over the past decade at Florida and now at Ohio State or the fact that the coaches’ preferred modes of matriculation differ between ground and air.
On paper, nobody will confuse the two outfits. The Buckeyes currently have the 104th best passing offense in America, powered by a running game that rumbles for 242 yards a game and an impressive 5.66 yards per carry. The Irish have thrown for over 3,000 yards this season, one of just eight offenses to break that threshold and still run for 2,500 yards.
Still, Kelly’s comparison is one being made by Ohio State’s defensive coaches. And a group that’s transitioning out co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash—on his way to Rutgers to be head coach with former Scarlett Knights head man Greg Schiano joining the Buckeyes staff after the bowl game—sees a familiarity that both teams think can help them prepare for the challenge awaiting on New Year’s Day.
“For us, this is one of the more similar games to what our offense does,” co-defensive coordinator Luke Fickell said. “They still run the ball and run it very well. They will also run the quarterback. But they might line up in empty a little more and drop-back pass a little bit more.”
Ohio State’s defense has been one of the best units in the country this season, allowing just 14 points a game. But they also have Ash working double-time, building his Rutgers staff and a recruiting class as he prepares for Notre Dame’s offense.
As the Irish look for areas to attack, they might see a front four that’s a bit undermanned. With All-Big Ten defensive tackle Adolphus Washington suspended and fifth-year journeyman starter Tommy Schutt likely out with an injury, a front four that’s already been susceptible to a good running game might show some weakness against the Irish offensive line.
While Harry Hiestand’s group (or Ronnie Stanley, more appropriately) needs to find a way to slow down All-American Joey Bosa, they’ll face off against a talented front, but one that’s still young and learning on the go.