Ohio State-Notre Dame might come down to one big play

Five things you might not know about Notre Dame:

1. It was founded by a 28-year-old French missionary priest, Father Edward Sorin, in 1842. The Fighting Irish nickname didn’t arrive until early in the 20th century.

2. The official name of the mural on Notre Dame’s library, often referred to as Touchdown Jesus, is The Word of Life. The mural is centered on a figure of Jesus with his arms upraised, similar to a referee’s signal for a touchdown. The other figures in the mural are Christian prophets, saints, scholars, writers and teachers.

3. Knute Rockne is not buried in Cedar Grove Cemetery which is on the west edge of Notre Dame’s campus. Another legendary Notre Dame football coach, Ara Parseghian, and famous alumnus Regis Philbin are, but Rockne’s grave is in Highland Cemetery, located around three miles from the campus.

At the time Rockne died in a plane crash in Kansas in 1931, Cedar Grove Cemetery required families of the deceased to maintain graves or pay an annual maintenance fee while Highland Cemetery included taking care of the grave in the price of a burial plot.

4. There is a conspiracy theory that the plane crash which killed Rockne and seven other people might have been a mob hit.

A priest who was a faculty member at Notre Dame and had testified during the trial of a member of mob boss Al Capone’s organization gave Rockne a ticket he had purchased for a flight from Kansas City to Los Angeles. Some conspiracy theorists say the mob intended to kill the priest and didn’t know Rockne was using the ticket. Others, including the priest in an interview decades later, said Rockne was the target to take revenge on Notre Dame.

5. Notre Dame’s first football game was against Michigan in 1887, ten years before the first Ohio State-Michigan football game.

Here’s another significant fact I’d overlooked about Ohio State and Notre Dame heading up to Saturday night’s game:

Obviously, I knew Ohio State has been more successful on the football field than Notre Dame has been since the mid-1990s. But until Bill Bender of The Sporting News pointed out the numbers in a column this week I didn’t realize quite the size of the gap in overall wins in OSU’s favor recently.

Ohio State’s back-to-back wins over the Fighting Irish during the regular seasons of 1995 and 1996 could almost be viewed as a changing of the guard.

From 1970 to 1994, Ohio State won 215 games and Notre Dame won 213. But from 1995 until now, the numbers are decidedly in OSU’s favor. Parity between these two elite programs has faded. Ohio State has 286 wins and Notre Dame has 213 since 1995.

As I wrote in a column on The Lima News’ Ohio State preview page, which appears in around 30 newspapers around Ohio, the story of the Ohio State – Notre Dame rivalry doesn’t contain a lot of chapters. They have played against each other only seven times before this season.

Notre Dame beat the Buckeyes in regular season games in 1935 and 1936. The two schools didn’t play again until Ohio State won 45-26 in 1995 and 29-16 in 1996. OSU has a pair of Fiesta Bowl wins, 34-20 in 2005 and 44-28 in 2015 over the Irish, and won 21-10 in last season’s opener.

Ohio State (3-0) is No. 6 in the latest Associated Press Poll and Notre Dame (4-0) is No. 9. The winner Saturday night will remain among the contenders to reach the College Football Playoff. The loser will not be able to afford another loss the rest of the season.

The stakes are high. Both teams are good. But Ohio State is just a little better.

If you compare the teams position group by position group – quarterbacks, running backs, receivers, offensive line, defensive line, linebackers, defensive backs and special teams – it’s close. Probably a 4-4 tie or a 5-3 edge for one team.

But Ohio State has one thing Notre Dame doesn’t have. OSU has Marvin Harrison Jr. One big play by the Buckeyes’ All-American receiver could make all the difference.

The prediction: Ohio State 35, Notre Dame 28.

Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414.

Jim Naveau
Jim Naveau has covered local and high school sports for The Lima News since 1978 and Ohio State football since 1992. His OSU coverage appears in more than 30 newspapers. Naveau, a Miami University graduate, also worked at the Greenville Advocate and the Piqua Daily Call. He has seen every boys state basketball tournament since 1977. Reach him at [email protected] or 567-242-0414.