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Notre Dame vs Ohio State Series History

A look at the series history between the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the Ohio State Buckeyes

Notre Dame hosts Ohio State on Saturday night in South Bend in the most anticipated game of Marcus Freeman’s tenure. These are the types of games that Notre Dame struggled to win under Brian Kelly, and for this program to take the next step on the national stage, the Fighting Irish need to first show they are the preeminent program in the Midwest.


Despite competing every year in recruiting for the best players in the Midwest, Notre Dame and Ohio State have actually only met seven times on the field, with five of those matchups coming in the regular season. The Buckeyes have won five in a row against the Irish and lead the all-time series 5-2, including a 21-10 victory in the season opener last year in Columbus. Freeman and the Irish will aim to reverse that trend on Saturday night and catapult themselves to the forefront of the national championship discussion.


2022 – Ohio State 21, Notre Dame 10
2015 – Ohio State 44, Notre Dame 28 (Fiesta Bowl)
2005 – Ohio State 34, Notre Dame 20 (Fiesta Bowl)
1996 – Ohio State 29, Notre Dame 16
1995 – Ohio State 45, Notre Dame 26
1936 – Notre Dame 7, Ohio State 2
1935 – Notre Dame 18, Ohio State 13


2022 – The Fighting Irish defense held Ohio State’s vaunted offensive attack to their lowest point total in the Ryan Day era, but Notre Dame’s offense was unable to hold up its end of the bargain in a 21-10 loss in the season opener in Columbus. Things started well for Notre Dame, with now-Buckeye Lorenzo Styles taking the first play from scrimmage 54 yards into the Buckeye red zone, but Notre Dame was forced to settle for a field goal. After CJ Stroud hit Emeka Egbuka for a 31-yard touchdown pass, the teams traded punts until Audric Estime capped off a 10-play, 87-yard drive with a 1-yard score. Notre Dame held that slim 10-7 margin until Stroud gave the Buckeyes a lead they would never relinquish with a 24-yard strike to Xavier Johnson with 17 seconds left in the third quarter. Notre Dame’s defense wore down in the fourth quarter, and Ohio State iced the game with a 14-play, 95-yard touchdown drive that took over 7 minutes off the clock. The hangover from the loss lasted into the following weekend, as Notre Dame was shocked by Marshall in Week 2 but would rebound to finish 9-4. The Buckeyes would take an undefeated record into the season finale against Michigan, where they fell 45-23 to the underdog Wolverines. A controversial loss to Georgia in the College Football Playoff cemented the 2022 season as a big “what if” in Columbus. 

2015 - Notre Dame faced Ohio State for the second time in the Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Arizona, after a 10-2 regular season that featured narrow losses at Clemson and at Stanford. In addition to foreshadowing the problems that led to the debacle of the 2016 Notre Dame season (I still have nightmares of the secondary trying to tackle Ezekiel Elliott), this game continues to impact college football today. During the first half of ND’s 44-28 loss, All-American Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith suffered a significant knee injury while being blocked from behind by an Ohio State lineman. Smith, who would have been a top-5 pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, suffered a torn ACL, torn MCL, and nerve damage in his knee, and ultimately fell into the second round where he was selected by the Dallas Cowboys. While Smith recovered enough to become an NFL starter, he never fully regained the explosiveness that made him such a force for the Irish. Even though Jaylon Smith maintains that he has no regrets about playing in the Fiesta Bowl, since his injury, hundreds of players have sat out “meaningless” bowl games rather than risk injury. Things even went a step further in 2020, with many players choosing to opt out of the Covid-influenced season, with the goal of either transferring or entering the NFL Draft once it became clear that their team could not win a conference title (or even before the season began). The rash of opt outs to protect against injury, which became widespread after Jaylon Smith went down in the Fiesta Bowl, is a challenge for college football moving forward, as it is now not only affecting the bowl season, but also the regular season.

2005 – Notre Dame’s best season in over a decade ended in a 34-20 loss to Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl. Despite 286 passing yards from Brady Quinn and three rushing touchdowns by Darius Walker, the Irish defense struggled to keep up with Ohio State’s speed, as the Buckeyes used big plays to build a 21-7 halftime lead. Wide receiver Ted Ginn scored on a 56-yard touchdown pass and 68-yard rush on a reverse, and shortly before halftime, quarterback Troy Smith found Santonio Holmes for an 85-yard touchdown. The Irish would cut it to 27-20 late in the fourth quarter before a 60-yard touchdown run by Antonio Pittman sealed the Buckeye win. Troy Smith would build on his 342-yard passing performance in the subsequent 2006 season, winning the Heisman Trophy before the Buckeyes fell to Florida in the national championship.

1996 – Ohio State started fast on the way to a 29-16 win in front of a sold-out Notre Dame Stadium. The Buckeyes returned the opening kickoff 85 yards to set up a quick touchdown and harassed Irish quarterback Ron Powlus into a disappointing 13-30 passing effort with two interceptions. Ohio State dominated the first half, outgaining Notre Dame 283-93 and taking a 22-7 lead into halftime. Notre Dame did mount a second-half charge, holding the Buckeyes to just 108 second half yards, but a controversial holding penalty negated Autry Denson’s 90-yard punt return touchdown in the fourth quarter and ended any hopes of an Irish miracle. Notre Dame would go on to finish 8-3 as Lou Holtz stepped down at season’s end. 

1995 – After a scoreless first quarter in Columbus, Notre Dame seized a 17-7 second quarter lead, but a 17-yard touchdown pass from Bobby Hoying to Dimitrious Stanley with 44 seconds left in the first half brought the Buckeyes within a field goal. The Irish were doomed by three turnovers and had no answer in the second half for future NFL All-Pros Eddie George and Terry Glenn, as the Buckeyes pulled away to a 45-26 win behind 31 second half points. Glenn had 128 yards receiving and 2 TDs (including an 82-yarder to give Ohio State a lead it would never relinquish) while George – who would go on to win the 1995 Heisman Trophy – rushed for 207 yards and 2 TDs. Notre Dame finished the season 9-3 after a close loss to Florida State in the Orange Bowl.

1935 - Billed as the “Game of the Century” and voted as such by football writers in 1950, Notre Dame’s victory over unbeaten Ohio State occurred in the first meeting between the two teams and featured a then-record crowd in Ohio Stadium. Notre Dame trailed 13-0 at halftime and 13-12 late in the fourth quarter before the Irish defense forced a turnover, giving the ball back to the offense. With 32 seconds left, Bill Shakespeare threw a touchdown pass to Wayne Millner, giving the Irish an 18-13 win. Unfortunately, the Irish would be upset the following weekend by Northwestern before tying Army, two results that denied the team a chance at the national title. 

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