It seems that nearly every article you read about why Notre Dame is 7-0, gives the credit to the front seven and the three-headed Irish monster in the backfield, and deservedly so. However, the Irish starting offensive linemen are some of the unsung heroes on this team that have played a key role in the Irish earning a top 5 ranking. While the O-line has gotten some credit, it hasn’t been enough. I know it’s not fun or “sexy” to write about a group of guys that on average are about 6’4” and 304lbs, or don’t carry the ball for 194yds/game, or make impressive goal line stands in overtime; but that’s ok. The way this group plays together would lead me to believe that they don’t care very much about everyone around them getting the spotlight on ESPN and every other sports outlet.
The 2012 starting offensive line calls themselves “The Rock” and it’s been documented that they do everything together; a team within the team, if you will. Anchored by future first round pick, Zack Martin, at left tackle and a supporting cast that boasts graduate students Mike Golic Jr. and Braxton Cave, along with Sr. Chris Watt and Jr. Christian Lombard, they have the experience needed to hold together a young offense. Looking at how the Irish are winning this season, it’s clear that Notre Dame’s record could look very different without the experience and physical play of the offensive line. The 193.86 yard per game average wouldn’t be possible without the o-line exploding off the ball or being athletic enough to pull and provide a lead block or two for the backfield. At times, pass blocking has been average at best, but when it mattered most in game-winning drives against Purdue, Stanford and BYU, the line was able to give Rees or Golson time to make a play. In my opinion the offensive line has been as clutch as any long run, touchdown saving tackle, or game winning touchdown pass.
For Notre Dame to escape Norman, OK with a win this weekend, “The Rock” will have to turn in their performance of the year. Many believe, and I would agree, that the Irish have to continue to dominate by rushing the ball to keep Jones and his explosive receivers off the field. However, look for the Sooners to stack the box early on and challenge the Irish running game in an effort to force a young QB and receiving core to beat them over the top. While this will be the toughest game to date, I believe the o-line will rise to the occasion once again and help lead the Irish to victory.