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Marcus Freeman has thoughts about Notre Dame being massive underdogs at Ohio State

The Irish and Buckeyes open the 2022 season Sept. 3 in Columbus

The overwhelming consensus in college football heading into the 2022 season, at least the upper-most Football Bowls Subdivision, is that it’s Alabama and Ohio State.

Nick Saban, Bryce Young and the Crimson Tide. Ryan Day, CJ Stroud and the Buckeyes.

Playoff regulars. Past champions in the College Football Playoff.

And as it pertains to Ohio State, the team first up on Notre Dame’s schedule – and the first true game for Marcus Freeman as head coach with his own staff following his ascension atop the Golden Domers’ program last December.

Freeman is well aware that his Notre Dame team is an early double-digit underdog. In fact, Freeman is leaning into the leprechaun-David vs. Goliath perception surrounding the Sept. 3 game, which also pits Freeman’s current team against the former Buckeyes’ standout’s alma mater.

After opening on a 10-point line in Caesars Sportsbook earlier this spring, the Buckeyes now are approximately two-touchdown favorites.

“Yeah, this group will be ready,” Freeman said Wednesday during a Notre Dame livestream with affable Vice President for University Relations, Lou Nanni. “I think it’s natural for any competitor, and that’s who I am, I’m a competitor, the guys in our program are competitors. Any time you’re challenged, competitors love to step up to being challenged.

“If you’re the underdog, I don’t care if it’s 13-and-a-half points. Make that thing 21 points. I want everybody in our program to know everybody’s counting you out. Good, good. If you’re a competitor, right, you’ll step up to a challenge.”

Freeman, after assembling an elite coaching staff with defensive guru and former head coach Al Golden, rising stars Deland McCullough, Tommy Rees and Chansi Stuckey, among others, knows the makeup of the players in his program and the work ongoing, including under heralded strength guru Matt Balis, positions the Irish for gamedays.

Still, the underdog status has its placement in Freeman’s approach and one he’s lending to the psyche of his players.

“I’m not worried about gameday; our guys will be ready to roll,” Freeman said. “I’m talking about during fall camp and in the summer, when things are really hot and things are really hard and maybe you don’t wanna get up and push yourself. That’s going to be the reminder that, hey, understand people aren’t giving you a chance. Understand the opportunity we have ahead of us. Those are the ways I’m going to utilize that as motivation and preparation. Because when the game comes, you get to go play.

“There’s a level that this roster is going to be able to play at, there’s just going to be an optimal level that this group can really get to. Our job from now until Sept. 3 is to get this group as close to this optimal level by gameday as we can. And you know what? On Sept. 3, go play. Go play. Don’t worry about what’s said about you, don’t worry about the point-spread. Go play and execute one play at a time and let the results be what the results are. My focus now until then is to continue to develop this team and get them ready and use a challenge to make sure we motivate them.”