It is put-up or shut-up weekend for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish as they travel to Norman, OK to take on the Oklahoma Sooners Saturday. The Irish are undefeated and playing great defense, but the Sooners are favorites to win and they should be.
This is the first big road test for the Irish in 2012. They did defeat Michigan State on the road in the third week of the season, but things have come into perspective in East Lansing. The Spartans are no longer a quality win for the Irish.
The Irish are taking the No. 2 scoring defense into Norman, but they are also toting the No. 77 scoring offense in the country. Notre Dame has to find a way to score points because Oklahoma will.
So far this season, the Sooners have had only two games with less than 30 points scored. They have the No. 5 scoring offense in the country and the No. 12 scoring defense. This is a complete Oklahoma team, and without a loss to the No. 3 team in country, they would be pushing for a national title.
Notre Dame will have its hands full as there are a number of key matchups that appear to favor Oklahoma on offense and defense.
Notre Dame has struggled to find consistent quarterback play, which has crippled the offense and will not produce tough wins on the road.
Tommy Rees and Everett Golson are averaging 58.5 percent completion ratios and have a 2-to-1 touchdown to interception ratio. Neither stat line looks good when heading into a contest against the No. 9 pass defense in the country.
Conversely, the Sooners are very potent through the air with Landry Jones dropping 1,644 yards and 12 touchdowns so far this season. He is one of the best quarterbacks in the country and has turned it on in the big games this fall.
Jones has a big-play threat in Kenny Stills on the outside and will hit him often in this contest.
Although Jones will be facing the No. 14 pass defense in the Irish, the matchup clearly favors the Sooners through the air.
Damien Williams has been a force on the ground for the Sooners churning out 74 carries, 552 yards and seven touchdowns. Dominique Whaley also has 38 carries for 241 yards and one touchdown.
In the recent past, the Sooners have struggled to find offensive balance. These two backs have given them another dimension and turned this Oklahoma offense into a stunning attack group.
Notre Dame also has some serious ground threats with three players contributing to the cause. Theo Riddick, Cierre Wood and George Atkinson III have all had significant carries for the Irish: Riddick has 451 rushing yards, Wood has accounted for 393 and Atkinson III has 301.
Both teams have playmakers at the position, but Oklahoma will have more success on the ground that Notre Dame in this game. Without a true passing threat, the Sooners defense will key on the Irish backfield.
One Dimensional vs. Multiple
The Notre Dame offense is one dimensional while the Oklahoma offense is a multi-faceted attack. Notre Dame has not won a single game with the pass and it won’t happen this week.
Notre Dame will face an Oklahoma offense that is balanced and can strike for points from anywhere on the field. The Irish will need to key on one area—likely the passing game—and hope that the other doesn’t beat them consistently.
This is a tough win for the No. 5 Fighting Irish. Every sign appears to point toward an Oklahoma win, but this will be a hard-fought battle from start to finish. It makes sense for Oklahoma to be the favorite, but the Irish aren’t prepared to concede the victory.
*Note: All Stats came from NCAA.org