The Fighting Irish have a chance to earn their first signature win of the year, and Oklahoma is trying to prove that they are a contender for the BCS in 2013. With Notre Dames big win in Norman last season, the Sooners will be looking to exact some revenge as they make their way to South Bend this weekend.
The Sooners will come out with a 4-3 defense that many feel is much improved from last season. Here’s a closer look at what the Irish will see on Saturday afternoon.
The defensive front for the Sooners was supposed to be a weakness for the defense in 2013, but they’ve played better than expected, so far. Like Michigan State, Oklahoma hasn’t faced any menacing challenges this season, so it’s hard to say just how good their defensive line is. The Sooner line is anchored by redshirt junior, Geneo Grissom at defensive end. Grissom sets the tone for the Sooner defense on the edge and takes some attention away from up and coming sophomore defensive end, Charles Tapper. At defensive tackle is Jordan Phillips, a mammoth 6-6 and 324lbs that will be a real test for the interior of the Irish offensive line.
The Sooner linebackers are the most improved unit on the defense this season. In last year’s game, the Irish ran for 215 yards, resulting in the Oklahoma secondary making tackles and keeping the game within reach. This season, outside linebackers Corey Nelson and Frank Shannon have been creating pressure on the pass rush with middle linebacker, Eric Striker making an impact up the middle. Unlike last season, two linebackers, Nelson and Shannon are leading the team in tackles, instead of safeties Javon Harris and Tony Jefferson.
Last season, the secondary was the strength of Oklahoma’s defense. Harris and Jefferson combined for one of the best secondaries in the nation last season, but with their departure for the NFL, there is a void in the back-end of the Sooner defense. The 2013 version of the Sooner secondary lacks depth and are leaning on senior, Aaron Colvin (CB) to settle the underwhelming defensive backfield. Leading the way at Safety is Gabe Lynn, a former No.1 recruit who has been a bit of a disappointment thus far, but has the talent to make a big impact
The Sooner defensive line hasn’t been able to get a great deal of pressure on opposing quarterbacks, having not recorded a single sack this season. The offensive line should be well prepared for the Sooner front four having just handled a much better defensive line last weekend against Michigan State. The pressure for Oklahoma has been coming from the linebackers which can open up the middle of the field in the passing game for the Irish. With the potential for the middle of the field to open up, tight-end Troy Nicklas could be in store for a huge game. Unfortunately for the Sooners, their secondary is lacking depth and the Irish have a ton of depth at receiver. Look for TJ Jones and DaVaris Daniels to make it a long day for Bob Stoops and his defensive backs. Overall, the Irish have the talent to exploit the Sooners weaknesses and find the elusive identity Brian Kelly has been looking for all year.