The Oklahoma Sooners are continuing to impress this season after their 35-21 victory over No. 22 Notre Dame last weekend, and the most encouraging aspect in the high-quality win—besides remaining unbeaten—is they have found answers to a few questions that have been encompassing the team through the first several weeks of the season.
With a stout defense and the continued development of certain offensive players, the Sooners seem to be improving each week in their play, somewhat similar to the 1999-2000 Sooners team which won a national title.
But let's not start making bold national title predictions just yet. The Sooners certainly have a long journey ahead with plenty of obstacles in their way.
The main thing to take from the Sooners' victory over Notre Dame is that they are getting better, and they have plenty of positives to build upon moving forward.
These are four things we learned in the Sooners' victory over Notre Dame.
Note: All stats retrieved from ESPN.com.
Blake Bell is the real deal
In the biggest start of his career—given, he has only had two career starts—Bell has solidified his starting honors at quarterback after an impressive outing against Notre Dame.
And yes, Bell can throw the football.
Last Saturday, Bell went 22-for-30 passing for 232 yards and two touchdowns.
The 6'6", 252-pound quarterback has silenced all critics who accused him of being just a running QB and a liability as a passer. He has shown he can throw well-timed, accurate throws consistently in his two starts; not to mention he has shown great decision making which has resulted in zero turnovers on the year.
Win or lose, Blake Bell has been magnificent today -- how did he not originally win the job in the preseason??— Jake Trotter (@Jake_Trotter) September 28, 2013
The QB controversy is over in Norman thanks to the impressive play from Bell. His victory over the Irish has earned him the reins at QB, and the Sooners can move forward knowing they have their guy to lead the offense.
Defense can generate turnovers
The Sooners scored 14 points less than three minutes into the game last Saturday, and much of the credit goes to their defense which came up with two interceptions in the Irish's first two possessions; one of which was returned for a touchdown.
The Sooners defense ended up generating three turnovers in the game, which proved to be the difference in the outcome.
Simply put, the Sooners defense was quicker than the Irish offense. They flew to the ball and suffocated receivers with tight coverage, and with great ball awareness, they were able to jump passing routes and disrupt Irish QB Tommy Rees.
Some may claim the Irish offense just isn't very quick, but regardless, the Sooners defense has proven to be faster than all of the offenses they have faced this season. If this trend continues, then the Sooners will continue to force turnovers which could very well decide the outcomes of games.
Running back by committee is valuable
The Sooners arguably have the most depth at running back in the nation. The four-headed monster of Brennan Clay, Damien Williams, Roy Finch and Keith Ford has been extremely difficult for opposing defenses to contain, and the story was no different last Saturday.
The Sooners had a combined 212 yards rushing and a touchdown. The shared time among the Sooners running backs provided fresh legs on every play, which was useful as the game progressed, and the Irish defense wore down.
Much of the credit to Bell's success passing the ball can be credited to the running backs who kept the Irish defense honest. After all, if the Sooners running game was not as effective, the Irish would have been able to key in on Bell in the passing game.
It only makes sense for the Sooners to utilize multiple running backs in games since they have so much talent and depth at the position. Assuming this trend will continue, it will be extremely difficult for opposing defenses to keep the Sooners offense from scoring throughout the entirety of games.
The Sooners can be national title contenders
After their victory last Saturday, the Sooners now have a quality win under their belt and are still capable of going through the regular season untarnished.
The Sooners were not considered national title contenders coming into the season due to the departure of Landry Jones and a few key players on defense. But now the Sooners are starting to draw national attention after the impressive victory at Notre Dame.
Plus, the Sooners' schedule plays to their favor. Many of the matchups later in the year that looked to be competitive at the start of the season are now beginning to look less difficult.
Time to put #Sooners in the national title convo. Impressive non-conf win and the remaining schedule not as tough as we thought— Jake Trotter (@Jake_Trotter) September 28, 2013
Of the eight games left on the schedule, the Sooners only face three teams currently ranked in the top 25 (Texas Tech, Baylor and Oklahoma State), and the highest ranking of any of those teams is Baylor at No. 17.
There are still a lot of games to be played for the Sooners to prove their worthiness as national title contenders. But if anything, Sooner Nation should certainly be excited after the performance their team displayed in their victory over the Irish.
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