It was the defining moment of Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o's season last year. The Fighting Irish, on the road in Norman against the then #8 ranked Sooners, lead the game 20-13 with 5:05 left to play. Sooners quarterback Landry Jones had taken the ball to the 41 yard line. On the next play, Jones’ pass was tipped and before the ball could hit the ground, Te’o dove and snatched it up, effectively ending the game then and there. The final score of 30-13 was something most people didn’t expect even though the Irish were ranked higher than Oklahoma at the time. That win helped propel Te’o into the forefront of Heisman contention (eventually losing to Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel) and the entire team into the National Championship picture.
That win also ran Notre Dame’s record against the Sooners to 9-1, with the only loss coming in 1956.
Fast forward to 2013. Oklahoma is once again the opponent, and once again both teams are ranked. Except this time its Oklahoma who is the higher ranked team playing on the road, coming into South Bend ranked #14. Notre Dame currently stands at #22. However Notre Dame once again enters the game as the underdog. And you can guarantee Oklahoma head Coach Bob Stoops will want to end his program’s seven game slide against the Golden Domers.
If the Irish are going to take it to 10-1, their game plan needs to be just as it was last year: Run the ball, and stop the run. Basic, smash-mouth football ladies and gentlemen. Without some of the key players from last year’s game, it might hard. There’s no Everett Golson, who ran the final score in to make the game 30-13. There’s no Cierre Wood or Theo Riddick, who combined for 148 of Notre Dame’s 215 rush yards. And, of course, there is no Te’o.
Making it more difficult, the Sooners average 271.7 yards per game on the ground, good for 16th in the FBS, and only give up 100.7 yards per game to opposing running backs. They also only give up 190.7 yards through the air. Yards – and therefore points – are not going to come easy against this team. But we know Notre Dame QB Tommy Rees is not the kind of player that can win you games like this. If Notre Dame is to have any shot this week, they’ll need to rely on their young but talented stable of running backs and power it behind their stellar offensive line. But if they get behind early and the Irish start throwing it almost every down, watch out because you may see the return of the legendary Turnover Tommy, and that’ll be game over folks.
When its all said and done, my gut is telling me this is exactly what will happen. The defense won’t hold for long against the Oklahoma run game. I see Oklahoma taking this one in a laugher, 41-10.
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