News and Notes: 12/15/2005

*Notre Dame and Ohio State both have rich football traditions. Multiple national championships and Heisman Trophy winners have come from these two schools. Despite the close proximity (280 miles) and successful football history, the Buckeyes and Irish have rarely been matched up on the field.

The series record is at 2-2 with Ohio State winning the last two contests. The Buckeyes dominated the 1995 matchup in Columbus behind Heisman Trophy winner Eddie George and won a closer ballgame at Notre Dame Stadium in 1996. The last meeting also was the most recent matchup for a top-five Notre Dame team against a top-five opponent. Could head coach Charlie Weis see more games during the season against Ohio State in the future?

"How are you going to fit it in?" Weis asked last Saturday during the Fiesta Bowl Media Day session. "Twelve years from now when there is an opening in the schedule? These schedules are set so far in advance. That is why trying to judge whether a schedule is good or not is irrelevant. These schedules are set so far in advance, you don't even know if someone on your schedule seven or eight years from now is going to be good or not, or whether you are going to be good or not good. That is why I leave the worrying about schedules to the powers-that-be and I just worry about playing them."

The chance, though, to play the Buckeyes in a BCS game is an exciting opportunity for some of the Irish players.

"They've always been a team I have wanted to play," defensive tackle Trevor Laws said. "You always here about the big Michigan-Ohio State rivalry. They are one of those teams you want to play and see what they're like. I'm excited."

Ohio State is a big name in college football. They travel well to opposing stadiums and usually are in the top-10. Some of the players are trying to stick with the philosophy the head coach has installed since the start of the season.

"One of the major things Coach Weis tries to say to us is try to keep things even keel," defensive end Victor Abiamiri said. "Don't get too hyped up when you win and don't get too down when you lose. We're trying to maintain a business-like approach when it comes to the game. That's one of the things that has helped us throughout the year. We'll try to take that same mentality going into Ohio State."

*The contrast between this year and last year couldn't be any clearer and the bowl game furthers this point. In 2004, the Irish were in Phoenix for the Insight Bowl. This season, Notre Dame is going to Tempe, right outside Phoenix, for a BCS game and a much larger payday. Quarterback Brady Quinn stuck around for last year's Fiesta Bowl after the team's loss to Oregon State and was blown away by the different atmosphere of the two games.

"I had the opportunity to stay out there for a few days after the bowl game last year," Quinn said. "Just seeing the difference in the magnitude between the two bowls was crazy. I'm looking forward to being out there and trying to pick up a win."

*The BCS game and its huge payout has made a lot of people at Notre Dame extremely happy. It has also put smiles back on the faces of Irish fans. The return of Notre Dame back to a big-time bowl contest has made these people ecstatic and the revved up atmosphere can already be felt by the players.

"People are fired up," Laws said. "Everyone was fired up throughout the season because if what was going on. But now that we're here, people are ecstatic. They're feeling it and loving it. All my friends back home are now Notre Dame fans. It's exciting."

"Whenever the Notre Dame football team is doing well, things are a lot easier around campus," Abiamiri said. "It's a lot easier to walk around campus with your head held high and things like that. There has been a little change around here."

*If Notre Dame falls behind to the Buckeyes, the statistics show that the odds of a comeback victory are small. Under head coach Jim Tressel, Ohio State is 36-3 when leading at the half. When leading after three quarters, the Buckeyes are 38-3.

*This is the first season in Notre Dame history that there has been a 3,000-yard passer (Brady Quinn), a 1,000-yard rusher (Darius Walker) and two 1,000-yard receivers (Jeff Samardzija and Maurice Stovall). It begs the question: can Notre Dame achieve this mark next season? Stovall is the only player in this group who will not be back. Wideout Rhema McKnight, who led the team in receptions and yards the previous two years, will return from injury to fill the graduating senior's production void. Barring a setback to one of these players, this could be duplicated once again in 2006.


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