Notre Dame at Oklahoma. No. 5 at No. 8. The Fighting Irish with an undefeated record on the line against an Oklahoma team trying to remain relevant in the national championship picture.
Do you have goosebumps just thinking about this juicy matchup? Because I do.
Honestly, how do you top this? Manti Te'o staring down Landry Jones. Blake "The Belldozer" Bell barreling toward the goal line. Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood dipping and ducking tackles.
It's going to be fun. And to prep you for the good times, I present the following preview of this vital battle between two of college football's most talented, visible teams.
Where: Memorial Stadium, Norman, OK
When: Saturday, October 27 at 8:00 p.m.
Spread: Oklahoma (-11.5), according to Bovada
On one hand, this line makes sense. Oklahoma is at home and is easily the most well-rounded, talented team Notre Dame has played this year. It's not inconceivable to think Oklahoma could hold Notre Dame to a goose egg.
On the other hand, Notre Dame has a really good defense, and I'm not sure I see it losing by 12 points. And that scares me, because I feel like this line exists to trick me into taking the points with the Fighting Irish.
And therein lies your conundrum, at least in my opinion. Oklahoma has covered this line in all of its victories, and it is coming into this game red-hot. Even against an excellent Notre Dame defense, I'm laying the points with Oklahoma—I think it wins by at least two touchdowns.
Take the points with Notre Dame or lay them with Oklahoma and over or under?
Over/Under: 47.5, according to Bet Online
I'd take the under. Notre Dame doesn't have the offense to put up many points against Oklahoma's stout defense, and the Fighting Irish's defense won't allow Oklahoma to blow it out.
Notre Dame Injuries (via USA Today)
QB Everett Golson, Concussion, Probable
DE Chase Hounshell, Shoulder, Questionable
K Nick Tausch, Groin, Doubtful
Oklahoma Injuries (via USA Today)
None to report
This game obviously has huge implications in the national championship picture. If Notre Dame runs the table, there's a very good chance it'll find itself in the National Championship Game.
Meanwhile, Oklahoma is trying to remain at one loss and hope it can re-enter that conversation as teams above it in the rankings drop games.
It doesn't get much bigger than this.
Keys to Notre Dame Win
Notre Dame needs to do three basic things to win: run the ball successfully, win the turnover battle and limit Oklahoma's big plays.
We all know the Fighting Irish don't have much of a passing attack, so they'll be in trouble if they can't establish the running game. And we know Oklahoma is the most explosive offense they'll have faced, so controlling time of possession and limiting Oklahoma's possessions (and holding onto the ball themselves) will be key.
I don't doubt the Irish run defense can make life difficult on Oklahoma's offensive lines and running backs. But Notre Dame hasn't faced a passing attack like the Sooners feature, and Notre Dame cannot repeatedly get torched through the air. Oklahoma has to be forced to earn every point—if it gets a few big plays and quick scores, it'll likely win.
It's a tall task for Notre Dame, but certainly not an impossible one.
Keys to Oklahoma Win
Oklahoma has two main keys in this game:
- Soften Notre Dame's presence in the box by throwing the ball successfully early in the game. We don't know how Notre Dame's secondary will react to Oklahoma's athletes on the outside, and Oklahoma should be able to take advantage of some matchups there. If it does, it should find running lanes start to open later in the game.
- Force Notre Dame into obvious passing downs and long third-down conversions. If Oklahoma can put this game on the arm of Everett Golson or Tommy Rees, you have to like its chances. Notre Dame has won by playing excellent defense and running the ball well; Oklahoma needs to neutralize both of those factors.
Oklahoma is the better football team, at least on paper. If it does the above, I think it'll hand Notre Dame its first loss.
Oklahoma wins, 28-13.
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