College GameDay 2012 Schedule: Players to Watch in Notre Dame at Oklahoma
This is what it's all about, folks.
Both No. 5 Notre Dame and No. 8 Oklahoma have a lot riding on their matchup on Saturday in Norman, with an explosive offense pitted against a dominant defense led by a Heisman contender.
The Sooners have averaged 44.7 points per game this season (fifth in the nation), while the Fighting Irish have held opponents to 9.4 points per game (second only to No. 1 Alabama).
The big-time clash begins at 8 p.m. ET on ABC, with ESPN's College GameDay crew in attendance.
Here are the top players to watch on Saturday in Norman.
Manti Te'o, ILB
Whenever talking about Notre Dame this season, you have to start with inside linebacker Manti Te'o, who has entered the Heisman discussion with 67 tackles (including 2.5 tackles for loss) and four interceptions.
Te'o is central to Notre Dame's ability to stop the run. The Fighting Irish have allowed 3.41 yards per carry this season (27th in the nation) and they're the only team not to allow a rushing touchdown, per CFBStats.com.
That should come in handy against an Oklahoma attack that has averaged 5.93 yards per carry (fifth in the nation) and rushed for 20 touchdowns.
Stephon Tuitt, DE
The book on Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones is you can force him into turnovers if you pressure him.
In that sense, the pressure brought on by sophomore Stephon Tuitt and Co. will be critical in Norman on Saturday.
Tuitt has amassed eight sacks this season (tied for fourth in the nation). That includes eight QB hurries. He's a huge player for the Fighting Irish against Oklahoma.
Everett Golson, QB
After passing post-concussion exercises, sophomore Everett Golson will start for the Fighting Irish on Saturday.
Golson has been inconsistent this season. While he's averaged 7.2 yards per pass attempt, he's also committed seven of Notre Dame's eight turnovers (three interceptions, four fumbles).
As a dual-threat, he offers a little more than junior Tommy Rees, but if he keeps coughing up the ball that won't matter.
Golson faces an Oklahoma pass defense allowing 5.4 yards per attempt this season (ninth in the nation). The Sooners have also allowed just three passing touchdowns while netting eight interceptions.
Golson has to be smarter with the pigskin in Norman.
Landry Jones, QB
Landry Jones is still one of the top quarterback prospects of the 2013 NFL draft class, but his game against a good defensive team in Kansas State showed he has some work to do.
In the 24-19 loss, Jones averaged 6.95 yards per pass attempt while tossing one touchdown to one interception. His interception toward the end of the third quarter set up a touchdown drive by Kansas State that put it ahead, 17-13. The Wildcats wouldn't relinquish the lead.
Kansas State notched two sacks and two QB hurries in that game.
Jones is sure to receive some pressure on Saturday against Notre Dame's front seven; it's what he does in the face of adversity that matters.
Damien Williams, RB
Oklahoma isn't averaging 44.7 points per game this season (fifth in the nation) solely because of its passing attack. In fact, the offense has been rather balanced.
Damien Williams is the lead back in the Sooners' rushing attack. He's rushed for 552 yards and seven touchdowns on 7.5 yards per carry this season. That includes a 95-yard touchdown against Texas two weeks ago.
Will Williams be the first back to score on the Fighting Irish?
We shall see.
Tony Jefferson, S
Tony Jefferson has moved around in Oklahoma's defense throughout the years, but he's settled in at safety this season and done rather well.
The junior has racked up 32 tackles (two tackles for loss) and one interception this season, but his impact can't truly be exemplified with stats. He's the leader of the Sooners' secondary and he'll be lurking when Golson drops back or takes to the ground.
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