SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Marcus Freeman has run down the tunnel at Notre Dame Stadium before, but he knows doing so as the Irish head coach will be different. More importantly, walking back up the tunnel with his first career win will be a welcomed difference.
Marshall (1-0) may challenge No. 8 Notre Dame (0-1), but it should be a short-lived challenge against an Irish team not only eager to move past last week’s loss at Ohio State but also overdue for notching Freeman’s first victory.
Losing to a pair of top-10 teams to start his career is hardly something to fault Freeman for, but a win is still overdue when remembering Notre Dame was leading at halftime both in the Fiesta Bowl and last week at Columbus.
No Irish head coach has ever opened his career 0-3. Freeman should not become the first today against the Herd.
TIME: 2:30 ET, with kickoff officially slated for 2:39 ET.
That pregame show will include two-time Notre Dame All-American defensive lineman Chris Zorich and two-time Super Bowl-champion and former Marshall running back Ahmad Bradshaw, as will the halftime show.
More pertinent to the game, midafternoon temperatures will be in the mid-80s with clouds at least protecting the sellout crowd from the sun.
TV: NBC will broadcast the first home game of the season, while Peacock will also carry the game live if preferring to stream it. Jac Collinsworth and Jason Garrett will man the booth with Zora Stephenson along the sidelines.
To pull from this space’s 40 preseason predictions, “Jac Collinsworth will provide the one characteristic that is most vital to a broadcast booth: He will be excited to be there at Notre Dame Stadium. Everyone has heard an announcer going through the motions torpedo a broadcast.”
— Jac Collinsworth (@JacCollinsworth) August 19, 2022
Another preseason prediction applicable directly to this game:
— “Notre Dame will score first in at least nine games this season, including against Marshall as a 17-plus-point favorite.”
— Notre Dame Football PR Team (@NDFootballPR) September 9, 2022
PREVIEW: A week ago, Freeman could remind his team of the betting spread to light a fire if needed. Now, that is Marshall’s luxury.
“They’re a talented football team that’s going to be hungry,” he said Thursday. “I’m sure they’re going to be fearless.
“We have to make sure we are aggressive from the start. This isn’t a game that we’re going to ease our way into, no, we’re going to be aggressive from the start.”
Repeating that intention may better the chances of that above prediction; if the Irish score first again this weekend, it will make six straight games they have cracked the scoreboard before their opponent. Regardless of that happening or not, that kind of approach struck Marshall head coach Charles Huff. Asked what he liked about watching Notre Dame’s film at Ohio State, Huff cut straight to the point Tuesday.
“Everything,” he said. “The way they get off the bus, the way their shoes are tied.”
Such is the talent gap between the Irish and the Herd. On some level, the Notre Dame roster knows as much; it is Freeman’s task to focus that confidence.
“It’s easy, when you walk into the team meeting when you say, ‘We’re 17.5-point underdogs,’ to get them motivated,” he said Monday. “It’s easy to say, ‘Hey, we’re going into a hostile environment with 105,000 fans,’ to get them motivated.
“Now we have to use that same type of motivation as we get ready for this Marshall team.”
Then Freeman cut to the core beauty of Saturdays in the fall. He struck the chord that elicits so many overreactions and irrational claims. He summed up the strongest reason even an expanded College Football Playoff will never truly reduce the regular season.
“Maybe we’re not looking at the spread or something like that, but we’re also looking at, ‘Okay, this opportunity, you get 12 guaranteed opportunities. 12.’ We have to understand we work 300 days a year for 12 guaranteed opportunities. So for us to waste an opportunity in Notre Dame Stadium, it would be a shame.”
— Notre Dame Football (@NDFootball) September 8, 2022
PREDICTION: Only so much can be gleaned from the Irish loss a week ago. Notre Dame’s game plan should not apply to much of the rest of the season, slowing that game to keep Ohio State’s potent offense sidelined.
“We didn’t have a bunch of plays on offense, which was by design, to shorten the game,” Freeman said. “That’s what we wanted to do going into the game, is shorten the game.
“As we continue to move forward, we want to continue to establish the run, but also make sure we exploit some holes in the passing game.”
Doing so would help the Irish cover the 20.5-point spread, as of Friday evening, per PointsBet, as well as threaten the combined points total Over/Under of 50.
But Notre Dame may also have reason not to open up the game, at least not overly so. Plane difficulties kept the Irish in Columbus longer than expected, not returning to South Bend until Sunday morning. Reviewing the Buckeyes’ film did not come until Monday, as a result. Essentially, this unexpectedly became a short week for Notre Dame. For context, that timeline is congruent to the Irish return from Florida State last year, playing on Sunday. Notre Dame then struggled with Toledo, winning 32-29.
A quicker start will spare that heartburn, and thus the Irish may try to spare some legs this afternoon to compensate for those travel-frustration effects. A fast start would certainly help that cause, as would Notre Dame’s defensive line producing more than the one sack it managed a week ago.
At that point, Freeman has already admitted he wants to work in the inexperienced portions of the roster when he has chances to.
“If the opportunity presents itself, yeah, you want to get — experience is important,” he said. “We’re not going into this game thinking we’re going to be able to play some guys that we haven’t been able to play. We’re going into this game ready to go.”
All deference to Marshall aside, the Irish may view success this weekend as 1) winning 2) proving their offense can push the ball downfield and 3) getting some rest for the first-string in the second half.
A quick start followed by efficient possessions could also spare Notre Dame <begin sarcastic tone> a shocking concern </end sarcastic tone> from last week.
Irish punter Jon Sot cramped up at Ohio Stadium, as did a few other players, most notably fifth-year linebacker Bo Bauer, but it was Sot who elicited a raised eyebrow from Freeman.
“I was like, ‘How does the punter cramp? Holy cow,’” Freeman said. “I guess that’s what that environment does to you. It adds a little bit anxiety to you. … The environment, the atmosphere adds onto the pressure already on you.”
The Irish could simply opt to never punt, instead scoring early and often in Freeman’s debut at Notre Dame Stadium.
Notre Dame 38, Marshall 7
(Spread: 1-0; Over/Under: 0-1; Straight-up: 1-0)
𝗠𝗔𝗥𝗖𝗛 𝗢𝗡 𝗧𝗢 𝗩𝗜𝗖𝗧𝗢𝗥𝗬
— The Fighting Irish (@FightingIrish) August 18, 2022
AN ADDITIONAL GAME DAY NOTE
Freeman has reinstituted Notre Dame’s game day Mass at the Basilica and subsequent walk from there over to the Stadium.
“I really want to be at peace and be a little bit calm as we come into the Stadium and embrace this place,” he said. “Then when it’s kickoff time, we’ll be ready to roll.”
The walk — presumptuously deemed “The Victory March” — will exit the Eastern-facing side door of the Basilica, commonly known as the “God, Country, Notre Dame” door, and head past the LaFortune Student Center before pausing in front of the Hesburgh Library, just south of “The Word of Life” mural more commonly known as Touchdown Jesus. Freeman will address the crowd there before leading the Irish into Notre Dame Stadium.
The walk is scheduled for shortly after noon ET.
I probably should have clicked through to figure out how the customized jerseys work. There's a list of players that you can select from but not the whole roster. Notable inclusions: Joe Alt, Bo Bauer, Clarence Lewis, Jaden Mickey, Tobias Merriweather, Chris Tyree.
— Tyler James (@TJamesND) September 8, 2022
INSIDE THE IRISH
— Tyler Buchner still more an unknown than anything; plus Playoff thoughts and 100,000 fans
— Notre Dame’s Opponents: Opportunity awaits No. 21 BYU, something the Irish should hope for
— And In That Corner: Marshall brings a hampered yet successful ground game to Notre Dame
— ND ‘expects’ three-year starter Jarrett Patterson back on the offensive line against Marshall
— Things To Learn: More aggressive offense crucial now that Ohio St. is in the rearview mirror
— Marcus Freeman’s first run down the tunnel at Notre Dame Stadium and the natural comparisons to be made
— Scenes from a clash of college football titans
— How to watch Notre Dame vs Marshall and the Irish all season: TV, Peacock info for 2022
— Marshall vs Notre Dame odds, picks and predictions: Fighting Irish suffocate Herd
— Here’s what new items you can eat at Notre Dame Stadium
— Football weekend events: Notre Dame vs. Marshall
— Matt Salerno reaches high and low in biggest game of his Notre Dame career
— Two Black football coaches will make Notre Dame Stadium history — ‘What a great representation’
— Notre Dame to remain test-optional for undergraduate admissions through 2024
— Why College Football Playoff expansion to 12 teams is good thing
— CFP committee digs into feasibility of early expansion to 12