With their team in one of the biggest matchups of the season in Week 1, Ohio State fans can be forgiven if they’re a little nervous.

The Buckeyes’ matchup with Notre Dame is easily one of the must-see games of Week 1 — and of the season, for that matter. But just because the Fighting Irish open the season at No. 5 in the nation doesn’t mean they’re much of a match for the Buckeyes. Ohio State is a 17.5-point favorite for many reasons.

Here are 5 reasons why the Buckeyes will have no problem with the Fighting Irish on Saturday.

1) Jim Know(le)s Pass Rush.

Like the old Nike ads with Bo Jackson, new OSU defensive coordinator Jim Knowles knows things — like how to scheme the pass rush. A season ago, Knowles’s Oklahoma State defense had 57 sacks. Notre Dame allowed 35 sacks a year ago, more than they had given up in recent memory (at least as far back as 2008). Meanwhile, last year Ohio State was 10-0 in games in which it had at least 1 sack. Add in Zach Harrison, JT Tuimoloau, Jack Sawyer and a ton of other developing pass-rushers, and this picture continues to look better and better for the Buckeyes.

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2) A standout running back isn’t walking through that door.

Ohio State’s defense would have to be the team’s question mark entering the season, and both times the Buckeyes took a loss last season, it came against top-flight running backs. Hassan Haskins from Michigan (1,327 yards, 20 TDs) and Travis Dye from Oregon (1,271 yards, 16 TDs) were those kind of backs — granted, much of Oregon’s running game came from CJ Verdell, who was on his way to a likely 1,000-yard season as well before injuries sidelined him.

Notre Dame, though, enters Week 1 with 3 backs listed as co-starters on their depth chart. What do they have in common? Not much experience. The three combined to rush for 512 yards last year, and only sophomore Audric Estimae topped 4.4 yards per carry — and he had 7 carries for the season. Basically, there’s no reason to think Notre Dame has enough of a ground threat to keep the Buckeye defense honest … and refer back to point one above in regard to a one-sided offense against the Buckeyes.

3) An unfavorable road environment is … unusual for Notre Dame.

One of the annual talking points against Notre Dame is how its lack of a conference leads to a mix-and-match schedule that rarely sends the Irish into unfavorable environs. The last time the Irish won at a top 5 team was at No. 3 Michigan in 2005. They are a ho-hum 28-15 on the road in the last decade, and it’s worth noting that they have been a road underdog only once in the last 5 years (a loss at No. 3 Georgia in 2019). The toughest road game Notre Dame has played in the last 2 years? By gambling odds, it was a game at Virginia Tech last year. That’s the same Virginia Tech that was in the middle of a second straight losing season and fired its coach.

It’s safe to say the Horseshoe will be a little different atmosphere on Saturday than the Irish have seen in a while.

4) Explosiveness is OSU’s X factor.

Notre Dame is a team that needs to win games by punch and counterpunch. Last year, 3 of its wins were one-score games and a full 6 of their 11 wins were 2-possession games. For that matter, Notre Dame was outgained 7 times in total yardage last season.

By comparison, Ohio State had a single one-score win last year (the Rose Bowl) and won just 4 games by as close as even a 2-score margin, picking up wins by 52, 49, 49 and 47 points (and 3 of those were conference games). Ohio State was outgained once all season — by Michigan.

The only way to beat Ohio State is to be more explosive than the Buckeyes. It’s hard to see a Notre Dame team used to winning close games coming up with the firepower to blast past OSU, particularly this OSU with CJ Stroud, TreVeyon Henderson and Jaxon Smith-Njigba.

5) Special teams could be an adventure for Notre Dame.

Ohio State returns standout kicker Noah Ruggles and a bevy of experienced special teams contributors. Notre Dame … well … does not. The Irish will be trying out a new kicker (a transfer from Arkansas State) and a new punter (a transfer from Harvard). Also, they’ll be working with a new punter returner. And they have a new special teams coach.

Using the transfer portal is probably better than throwing freshmen to the wolves, but as talented and experienced as the transfer specialists are, they’ll be kicking in front of more fans in Week 1 than they’re used to in the Sun Belt or Ivy League. That could be a pivotal advantage for the Buckeyes.