Bob Stoops and the No. 9 Oklahoma Sooners have been one of the biggest offensive juggernauts in college football over the last decade, and the only teams able to beat his squad have had to bring toughness, energy, pure skill and resiliency on defense to take them down.
Those happen to be the first words to come to mind upon thinking of No. 5 ranked Notre Dame's 2012 unit, and that's why they'll inevitably pull out a close victory over the Sooners on the road Saturday.
Heading into Saturday's game against BYU, Notre Dame's defense hadn't given up a touchdown in four games. While that changed in their 17-14 victory over the Cougars, both TDs came within three minutes of each other, and the Irish enjoyed success despite the two lapses.
For any defense to be elite, it needs an obvious leader and hero. That leader, linebacker Manti Te'o, exposed himself before the season even began, and he's never failed to have a dominant performance this season.
That string of dominant performances grew Saturday against BYU, when Te'o notched 10 tackles and one interception in the tight contest that required its defense to be superb in order to keep its undefeated season alive.
Heisman hopeful quarterbacks this season have proven to be inconsistent, as West Virginia's Geno Smith and USC's Matt Barkley have both cost their team games. That means if Te'o can keep the Irish undefeated with the league's best defense and continue to be a consistent force, he has a real shot to win the Heisman.
The Fighting Irish offense may also get a shot in the arm before their game against the Sooners, as quarterback Everett Golson is supposed to be back in his starting role, according to Matt Fortuna of ESPN.
Golson has attempted almost 100 more passes this season than the other QB Tommy Rees, who started against BYU and struggled to score points against an average defense.
But whoever is taking snaps, Notre Dame's running game has been solid all season and should continue that against a Big 12 defense. Oklahoma has a strong defensive unit statistically, but it's hard to match up against this Notre Dame offense, and I expect them to have success.
Oklahoma's high-powered offense is led by Landry Jones, who has notched 1,644 passing yards and 12 touchdowns on the season. He has the playmakers, but it will be tough early to get going against an inspired unit that is playing on the road in front of College Gameday.
This Sooners team was exposed already this season when they fell to Kansas State, and the Irish are undoubtedly preparing themselves and building a blueprint to pull out a huge victory.
Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly has a group of players who believe in themselves, and that is the most important ability heading into a tough road environment in a top-10 game.
The Fighting Irish have what it takes, and they'll fight their way out of Norman, Okla. with a victory.
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