Special Teams – Confidence Level 6
Both Ohio State and Notre Dame have pretty good kicking games. It’s interesting that Freeman hasn’t had to call on kicker Spencer Shrader too often. In fact, he has only done so on six occasions, with half of those attempts coming beyond 50 yards. Surprisingly, Shrader has hit two of those three attempts.
Ohio State’s Jayden Fielding has been called on by Day even less this season. Fielding is still three-for-three on-field goals this year.
No one wants to put the game on the foot of a kicker for a game-winning attempt. Ohio State fans still probably have PTSD from the Peach Bowl, which is why I do not believe Day will put himself or this team in that situation again.
However, there is one aspect of special teams that has been ignored and that is the improvement of the Buckeye kickoff coverage team. Last week, when the Hilltoppers decided to test the kickoff coverage team of Ohio State on several occasions, those drives began inside their own 20-yard line. More than likely Notre Dame will also test this unit, and more than likely they will fail.
The other special teams unit where I see a slight advantage is in Emeka Egbuka on punt returns. I’ve been saying it for weeks now, but eventually, he is going to bust one. If this is the week it happens, it could totally be the difference between a win and a loss in a game where the talent is so evenly matched.
My confidence level in special teams between the two teams is pretty much a wash, but I will give a slight advantage to the Buckeyes with a score of six.