(Photo credit: Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports)
Notre Dame signal-caller Sam Hartman will make his 50th career start on Saturday when the No. 9 Fighting Irish host No. 6 Ohio State, quarterbacked by junior Kyle McCord in his fifth start.
That disparity in experience may come into play when the heavyweight programs renew their rivalry in SouthBend, Ind.
"I think it's a factor," Buckeyes coach Ryan Day said. "Kyle's been around. He hasn't played a whole bunch of football, but he has been around. He's seen it. He's older and more mature than maybe a freshman who's coming in in the same situation, but I think experience does play a part of it.
"It's not the No. 1 thing overall. There's a lot of other things that come with it, but I do think it's significant."
Hartman has thrown for 13 touchdowns with no interceptions and has Notre Dame (4-0) rolling, opening the season with four straight 40-point games for the first time since 1900 when the opponents were Goshen (55 points) and Englewood (68) high schools, a South Howard Park club team (64) and the University of Cincinnati (58).
The Irish have never scored 40-plus in each of their first five games.
Hartman, who played the previous five seasons at Wake Forest, embraces the challenge of going against an Ohio State defense that has allowed only 20 points this season.
"It's a clash of two football greats that, growing up, you think about and look at those games of Ohio State and all the other big ones that you'd be like, 'That would be a cool game to play in,'" Hartman said. "It's exciting. It is a big game. To shy away from that is foolish, but like every week, it's about us executing at the highest level."
Ohio State (3-0) struggled to find consistency on offense due to McCord -- who started one game as a freshman in 2021 -- sharing snaps with Devin Brown the first two games. Although McCord started both, it wasn't until four days before the third game that Day officially named him the starter.
McCord responded with his best game of the season against Western Kentucky, going 19-for-23 for 318 yards and three touchdowns, including a 75-yarder to Marvin Harrison Jr.
"You've seen their offense kind of evolve over the first three games," Notre Dame coach Marcus Freeman said. "It's explosive, you see a lot of tempo. I think I've seen more tempo recently."
The Ohio State defense prepped for Hartman by limiting Western Kentucky's Austin Reed, the FBS active career leader in passing yards, to 207 yards with one TD and one interception.
Hartman will present more of a test. He is tied for seventh with former Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones on the FBS all-time list with 123 touchdown passes.
"You can tell Hartman has been around, a veteran," Day said. "Accurate, very intelligent. A lot of good attributes for a quarterback. Won a lot of games at Wake Forest."
Hartman has shown the ability for big plays, too, with touchdown throws of 76 and 75 yards against Central Michigan on Saturday.
Ohio State leads the series 5-2 with five consecutive wins since 1995. Notre Dame's last win was 7-2 in South Bend in 1936. The Buckeyes won 21-10 in Columbus last season.
--Field Level Media