Marcus Freeman on Notre Dame's 17 1/2-point underdog status: 'We'll use that'
SOUTH BEND — Notre Dame football coach Marcus Freeman smiled Monday when asked about the point spread for Saturday’s top-five showdown at Ohio State climbing to 17 ½ points.
“Ooh, I didn’t know that,” Freeman said, reaching for his pen. “I’m going to write that down. You said 17 ½ points? We’ll use that in the team meeting today. It’s good to know.”
Notre Dame has won outright as a double-digit underdog just four times in 27 tries since 2000, the last time coming as a 10-point underdog at No. 8 Oklahoma in 2012 (30-13 upset win). Everett Golson was a first-year starter at quarterback.
When getting at least 17 points in the betting line, Notre Dame hasn’t sprung the upset since a 20-6 win at 11th-ranked UCLA in 2007. The Bruins were 21-point favorites that day at the Rose Bowl against the 0-5 Irish and freshman quarterback Jimmy Clausen.
Notre Dame’s only other outright wins as double-digit underdogs since 2000 came in 2004 at home over Michigan (28-20 behind sophomore quarterback Brady Quinn) and in 2002 at Florida State (34-24 with junior Carlyle Holiday under center).
“I haven’t paid much attention to the spread,” Freeman said. “I remember the one time we were on ‘College Game Day’ (at the NFL Draft). I said, ‘Just keep making (the spread) go up and up.’ ”
That was a joint interview in Las Vegas in late April with Ohio State coach Ryan Day, whose second-ranked Buckeyes opened as 14-point favorites. That number has climbed steadily as Saturday’s kickoff has drawn closer.
Freeman declined to share any motivational tips he might have gleaned from multiple visits with former Irish coach Lou Holtz since taking over nearly nine months ago.
“Coach Holtz has been a great resource for me,” Freeman said. “To me the best thing I got from coach Holtz wasn’t what he said. It was the ability to go with him to the Holtz’s Heroes dinner and see the way his former players embraced him. To me that’s what it’s about.”
Epic upsets along the way helped forge that connection.
Jarrett Patterson expected to practice this week
All-America left guard Jarrett Patterson remains questionable for the opener, Freeman said, but the hope is that Patterson will at least be able to test his sprained right foot in practice as kickoff nears.
“I expect him to come out this week and practice,” Freeman said. “We will see as we get closer to game time.”
Redshirt freshman Rocco Spindler was listed as Patterson’s backup on the official depth chart distributed to the media on Monday with Andrew Kristofic listed as Josh Lugg’s backup at right guard. During open practice sessions since Patterson suffered his injury on Aug. 15 at Penn High School, it has been Kristofic working with the first team at left guard next to center Zeke Correll.
A redshirt sophomore, Kristofic started the final seven games last season at left guard and played 62 snaps at Virginia Tech after replacing Correll early on. Spindler has more upside, but played just 16 snaps on the offensive line all last year.
All of those came in a 55-0 blowout of Georgia Tech on Senior Day.
Linebacker Marist Liufau, who had been “hobbled” early in training camp, according to defensive coordinator Al Golden, is probable for Saturday.
“Marist is ready to go,” Freeman said. “He will be ready. I don’t expect any limitations.”
No Fiesta for Tyler Buchner
Sophomore quarterback Tyler Buchner will be making his first career start against the complex scheme of well-traveled defensive coordinator Jim Knowles.
Although Knowles had already bolted for Columbus weeks before the Fiesta Bowl, Buchner missed out on a chance to play against the Knowles-coached Oklahoma State defense. Buchner was slated to take over for senior Jack Coan early in the third quarter, but the Cowboys rallied from a 28-7 deficit to win 37-35 despite Coan’s school-record 68 pass attempts.
“We had a game plan going in and (were) going to ride Jack Coan as long as we needed to,” Freeman said. “I wouldn’t change it at all. You can’t play a bowl game and say, ‘OK, let’s get Tyler Buchner some reps to get ready for the first game next year.’ No, we had to do what we felt was best for the bowl game. It didn’t turn out the way we wanted it to.”
Buchner’s 35 career pass attempts are the fewest for a Notre Dame starter in the season opener since Brandon Wimbush had five going into the 2017 win over unranked Temple.
“Tyler Buchner got plenty of work last year in terms of helping him prepare for this year,” Freeman said.
Mike Berardino covers Notre Dame football for NDInsider.com and the South Bend Tribune. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBerardino and TikTok @mikeberardinoNDI.
No. 5 Notre Dame (0-0) vs. No. 2 Ohio State (0-0)
When: Saturday at 7 :30 p.m.
Where: Ohio Stadium (104,944), Columbus, Ohio
TV/Radio: ABC, WSBT Radio (960 AM)
Line: Ohio State minus-17½
Series: Ohio State leads, 4-2.
Last meeting: Ohio State 44, Notre Dame 28 (Fiesta Bowl), Jan. 1, 2016, Glendale, Ariz.