Game: No. 5 Notre Dame vs. No. 8 Oklahoma
Where: Norman, OK
When Saturday, 8:00 p.m. ET
The undefeated Notre Dame Fighting Irish are back in the top five in college football, but are they actually BCS National Championship contenders?
Only Saturday will tell.
The 7-0 Fighting Irish face the No. 8 Oklahoma Sooners in Norman this weekend in one of the most highly anticipated games of the season thus far.
Notre Dame comes into Week 9 boasting one of the nation’s best defenses.
Oklahoma enters the weekend on the heels of three blowout victories at the hands of Texas Tech, Texas and Kansas.
If Notre Dame hopes to keep their championship hopes alive, they will need to execute my three keys to the game.
Control the Line
If Notre Dame is going to pull out the victory on the road, redshirt freshman Everett Golson has to have the best game of his young career.
Who will win?
However, that will only be possible if the offensive line controls the line of scrimmage and opens up holes for the running backs.
The Fighting Irish feature one of the more consistent running back cores in college football with Theo Riddick, Cierre Wood and George Atkinson III. All three running backs average over 4.5 yards per carry and have taken the ball into the endzone at least twice.
With the defense pressing the line, respecting the different ND rushing schemes, Golson will have the room and time to dish the ball off to his favorite target, the versatile TE Tyler Eifert.
With 6’4”, 299 pound defensive tackle Stacy McGee coming back from suspension this week, the Sooners' run defense instantly becomes much more physical.
Regardless, Oklahoma’s run defense has been exposed this season--against Kansas State for 213 rushing yards--and Notre Dame has the personnel to pull off the same feat.
Shut down Damien Williams
Notre Dame has been absolutely phenomenal against the run this season.
The Fighting Irish have allowed just one running back to eclipse 100 yards this season—Stanford’s Stepfan Taylor with 102 yards—and are the only team in the FBS yet to allow a rushing touchdown.
The strength of Notre Dame’s defense lies in the front seven. Led by Heisman candidate and captain Manti Te’o at inside linebacker, the Fighting Irish are a force at the line of scrimmage. The senior Te’o has 69 tackles on the season with four interceptions and is unstoppable against both the run and the pass.
This weekend, Notre Dame will see Damien Williams, who broke out of the gate in 2012 with two consecutive games of over 100 yards and five touchdowns. In the next four games, however, Williams has passed the century mark only once and has crossed the endzone just twice.
Notre Dame will easily be the best run defense that Oklahoma has seen this season, and the Sooners and the junior out of San Diego, CA., will have a tough time finding running room this weekend.
Pressure Landry Jones
After an unbelievable 2010 campaign, Landry Jones hasn’t lived up to his true potential.
In the last few weeks, though, Jones has started to shine once again. In Weeks 7 and 8, the 6’4” senior has put together consecutive 300-yard passing games with five total touchdown passes and just one interception.
If Landry Jones has time to throw, he can certainly exploit an untested Notre Dame secondary, but Notre Dame features a relentless pass rush highlighted by defensive end Stephon Tuitt that will force Jones to scramble out of the pocket all game.
With Jones under constant pressure, plays won’t have time to develop, causing the Artesia, NM native to make mistakes, which he has been prone to do in big games.
Thanks to the offensive line, as well as the run and pass defenses, Notre Dame will prove that they are among college football’s elite, and a true contender for the BCS National Championship crown.