By Jim Naveau
COLUMBUS — Former Notre Dame coach Charlie Weis is often mocked for saying that having him as coach gave the Fighting Irish “a decided schematic advantage.”
But the advantage that has really mattered in the three modern day match-ups between Ohio State and Notre Dame in 2005, 1996 and 1995 has been the talent advantage that the Buckeyes have had.
The 1995 game between the two schools was one of the most anticipated games ever at Ohio State. Before that game at Ohio Stadium, the only times OSU and Notre Dame had played was in 1935 and 1936, both Notre Dame wins.
The 1996 game at Notre Dame was the completion of a two-year contract and the game at the end of the 2005 season was in the Fiesta Bowl.
All three games were regarded as close match-ups before kickoff. But Ohio State took charge of all three, winning 45-26 in 1995 and 29-16 in 1996 before rolling up 617 yards of offense in a 34-20 win in the Fiesta Bowl.
In hindsight, maybe no one should have been surprised by the way those games played out.
If the NFL draft is an indicator of talent, Ohio State’s rosters in 1995, 1996 and 2005 had a decided advantage over Notre Dame’s.
In the five NFL drafts after the 1995 game, Ohio State had 25 players selected and Notre Dame had 18.
Ohio State had nine first-round selections, including players like Eddie George, Terry Glenn, Orlando Pace, Shawn Springs, David Boston, Antoine Winfield and Andy Katzenmoyer. Notre Dame had two first-round choices in that same time –defensive lineman Renaldo Wynn and offensive lineman Luke Petigout.
The difference in the talent level was even more noticeable in 2005. In the five NFL drafts following the 2005 season, Ohio State had 26 players selected in the NFL draft and Notre Dame had 14.
Ohio State had 10 first-round selections in those drafts, including A.J. Hawk, Donte Whitner, Santonio Holmes, Nick Mangold, Ted Ginn Jr. and Malcolm Jenkins. Notre Dame had one first-rounder, Brady Quinn.
The NFL draft indicator seems to be leaning Ohio State’s way again.
This year, some of the top draft analysts say OSU and Notre Dame both will have more than one first-round selection, but the Buckeyes are predicted to have more.
ESPN’s Todd McShay has four Buckeyes going in the first round – defensive end Joey Bosa, offensive tackle Taylor Decker, receiver Michael Thomas and linebacker Darron Lee. He says Notre Dame linebacker Jaylon Smith, offensive tackle Ronnie Stanley and wide receiver Will Fuller will be first-round selections.
ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. had Bosa, Decker, Thomas and running back Ezekiel Elliott among the 25 players on his big board. He also has Notre Dame’s Smith and Stanley on his list.
Sports Illustrated also has a big board of 40 players and it includes Bosa, Elliott, Lee, Thomas, Decker and safety Vonn Bell from OSU and Stanley and Smith from Notre Dame.
Both teams also have other players who will probably hear their names called at some point in the draft, like Ohio State linebacker Joshua Perry, tight end Nick Vannett, defensive lineman Adolphus Washington and receiver Braxton Miller and Notre Dame defensive lineman Sheldon Day and center Nick Martin.
The all-time collection of talent in a bowl game might have been Ohio State against Miami in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl for the national championship.
Because OSU’s Chris Gamble started on offense and defense, there were 43 starters and 37 of them eventually were selected in the NFL draft.