This weekend in college football is being built up as one of the best in terms of big games, and one of the most anticipated is the 14th ranked Oklahoma Sooners at 22nd ranked Notre Dame. This was a heck of a game in Norman last year, featuring a plethora of NFL Draft prospects, and the 2013 version looks to be the same.
This game, like so many others, will largely be decided on who wins the individual battles, and there’s some intriguing matchups in this game, especially with 2014 NFL Draft prospects. Perhaps no individual matchup will be as important as Oklahoma center Gabe Ikard vs Notre Dame nose tackle Louis Nix, two guys at or near the top of their positions nationally. Nix largely won this battle in last year’s game, and Ikard will be looking to redeem himself.
Both these players may be All-Americans, but they’re held in vastly different esteems in NFL scouting communities. While Nix is looking to become a top-10 pick in next years draft, Ikard is being billed as a fifth to sixth rounder. Nix has a lot more to lose in this matchup than Ikard, that’s for sure.
One on one, Nix will usually manhandle Ikard. Why? Because Nix is powerfully gigantic at 6-foot 3, 350-pounds, and Ikard is a finesse-zone-blocking center at 6-foot 3, 295-pounds. That doesn’t take anything away from Ikard, because he truly is one of the best centers in the nation and has some NFL talent. The thing is, there’s not many centers, even in the NFL, who can block truly elite 3-4 nose tackles one-on-one. That’s why they always get help in the forms of chips, scrapes and double-teams. Ikard’s quickness and awareness will be the only way he can help contain Nix.
Ikard has a lot to gain in this game. Nix will be the most talented prospect Ikard faces all year, and if he holds his own against Nix and helps the Sooners develop a strong ground game against the Irish, and OU walks out of Notre Dame stadium victors, his stock will soar (well, at least compared to what it is now).
There will be many other fantastic match ups in this game; another key battle to watch could be OU DBs Aaron Colvin (who’s questionable) and Gabe Lynn vs ND WRs TJ Jones and DaVaris Daniels. None, however, are as important as the Nix-Ikard battle.