The No.5 Notre Dame Fighting Irish are back in the hunt for a National Championship and the quest continues for Brian Kelly and his squad on the road this Saturday night against the No.8 Oklahoma Sooners. As much as many football fans would like to see an Oregon Ducks and Alabama Crimson Tide championship game, NCAAF authorities would love to see Notre Dame in the title game. Money talks.
Notre Dame has yet to allow a rushing touchdown all season, and is anchored by the heart of their defense, Manti Te’o. The Irish have already knocked off several credible opponents, including the Purdue Boilermakers, Michigan Wolverines, Michigan State Spartans, Miami Hurricanes and Stanford Cardinal.
Two mega hurdles remain for the Irish if they want to finish the regular season unscathed, and it starts with Oklahoma.
The Sooners are averaging 45 points-per-game, with their best performance coming in a 63-21 thumping of the Texas Longhorns. This offensive assault is lead be senior quarterback Landry Jones and junior running-back Damien Williams.
Jones, 6’4, 218 pounds, has 1653 passing yards with 12 touchdowns this season and Williams takes on the bulk of the running-back duties for the Sooners. Williams, pictured below, is averaging over 7 yards-per-carry this season, and has tallied 7 touchdowns as well.
Notre Dame has shown the ability to withstand elite rushing attacks, so if the Sooners are to solve this Manti Te’o lead defense, they may have to look through the air with help from number one receiver Kenny Stills.
Still, a junior, has 38 receptions and 4 touchdowns this 2012 season and may also get help from fellow junior receiver Justin Brown. Brown, 6’3, 215 pounds is a big target, something the Irish secondary may struggle with.
As for the Notre Dame offense, red-shirt freshman Everett Golson will get the start after missing last week’s game with a concussion. After successfully passing post-concussion tests Monday, Golson is 100% and ready to face a strong road test.
Golson has started five games for the Irish, completing under 60% of his passes and fumbling the rock four times. He has shown signs of being electric and promising, but this Oklahoma crowd, defense and atmosphere will likely be too much for the young signal-caller. Luckily for him, the Irish thrive on their defense to win them games.
Senior line-backer Manti Te’o has had a more than emotional year as he lost his grandmother and girlfriend in a 24 hour span earlier this year. However, on the field, he has been heroic. Te’o has been so dominant, his name is being thrown around in the Heisman trophy discussion all around the nation. On the year, Te’o has 4 interceptions and 69 tackles. He will look to have another big performance on Saturday night, in hopes to keep the Irish dream season alive.
In regards to the big upcoming game, Te’o said “I love it. I love it. I love the competitive nature of it.”
Since 1996, Notre Dame has lost 6 straight games to top 10 ranked opponents. On top of that, Sooner’s coach Bob Stoops is 79-4 at home. Should the Irish continue their trend of holding teams to under 10 points-per-game, they may have enough to escape Oklahoma with a win. Regardless, this is undoubtedly must-see TV!