Notre Dame vs Oklahoma: Keys to Irish Victory over Sooners High-Powered Attack
No. 8 Oklahoma (5-1) is the most well-rounded football team that No. 5 Notre Dame (7-0) has faced all season long. The Sooners also happen to be in the midst of a three-game winning streak, during which they are averaging 52 points a game—and they don't typically lose at home:
Kansas State beat Oklahoma earlier this season in Norman. Oklahoma hasn't lost two home games in a season since 1998. #NDvsOU— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 27, 2012
But Notre Dame has some history working in its favor as well:
History favors the Irish. They've won each of the last 6 meetings with Oklahoma. Irish are 8 and 1 all-time against the Sooners. #NDvsOU— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) October 26, 2012
While Notre Dame won't be playing under the watchful eye of "Touchdown Jesus" Saturday night, it can walk out of Oklahoma Memorial Stadium with both its unbeaten record and national championship aspirations still alive and well.
Keep Oklahoma's Receivers in Front of You At All Times
It's obvious, but let's be honest: Notre Dame's secondary got burned multiple times against Miami. Phillip Dorsett got past defenders on multiple occasions with nobody standing between him and the end zone—except himself.
Dorsett dropped each of the passes thrown to him when he was open, and that's not something Notre Dame can count on from Oklahoma's trio of talented receivers: Justin Brown, Trey Millard and Kenny Stills.
If a Sooners receiver makes the catch in front of a defender and puts a move on him that winds up leading to a touchdown, that's one thing. It happens. But to allow Oklahoma's receivers to run free behind the last line of defense is simply not something that the Irish can afford to do against any offense, much less one as talented and potent as Oklahoma's.
Run the Ball Early, Run the Ball Often
If there's a weakness in the Oklahoma defense, it's against the run.
Three teams have picked up more than 175 yards on the ground against the Sooners: UTEP (207 yards), Kansas State (213) and Kansas (185). But among all those yards, only three touchdowns were scored.
And Oklahoma only lost to Kansas State.
Notre Dame will be playing without George Atkinson III, who is out with an illness, but the Irish have a pair of backs in Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood who can get the job done.
While a repeat of last week's production against BYU, where both backs eclipsed 100 yards on the ground, would be wonderful, it's not necessary.
Establishing the run—and sticking with it as often as possible—not only helps Notre Dame's passing game, but it's probably the best defense against Oklahoma's offense.
Keep Landry Jones and company on the sidelines.
Everett Golson Must Play Well Enough to Keep Tommy Rees on the Sidelines
He's going to start after missing last week's game against BYU, and it goes without saying that Everett Golson gives the Irish the best chance to win. But Brian Kelly has used both Golson and Tommy Rees in five of their seven games thus far, and Golson needs to play well enough where Kelly doesn't look Rees' way once all night.
For that to happen, Golson needs to show that he can consistently make smart decisions with the football, both when he's airing it out and taking off and running himself.
Oklahoma's pass defense is very good—it ranks ninth in the nation—allowing only three passing touchdowns all season while picking it off eight times.
It's not going to be easy, but utilizing play-action to pick up some completions against the Sooners will not only make them have to respect Golson's ability to throw the ball more, but in turn, it will give him some more room to run.
He also needs to take advantage of the weapon that is Tyler Eifert. Eifert is the best tight end in the nation, and he can cause problems for Oklahoma's defense all night long.
Notre Dame needs to win this game if it plans on contending for the national championship. And the Irish need Golson to play a full game for that to happen.
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