September 28, 2013 3:30 P.M. ET
Last Meeting (2012): Notre Dame 30-Oklahoma 13
Line (as of 10:05 p.m. on 9/21): Oklahoma (-3.5)
Lead Editor, Andrew Hall: Oklahoma 31- Notre Dame 24
Staff Writer, Nick Combs: Oklahoma 19-Notre Dame 20
Podcast/Contributor, Brett Arney: Oklahoma 24-Notre Dame 17
Staff Writer, Tim Colin: Oklahoma 17-Notre Dame 20
From Staff Writer Michael Farina:
In 2012, most analysts predicted Oklahoma’s high powered offense would roll over the Irish and send Domers back to South Bend with a reality check. The critics were wrong because they overestimated the strength of Oklahoma’s offense and too easily dispelled the talent of Notre Dame’s defense. Unfortunately for Irish fans their prediction may prove more accurate to 2013’s matchup.
Oklahoma’s offense has a powerful running game built on the strength of their offensive line and the talent of their running backs. With Bell looking impressive against Tulsa (and don’t say it’s just Tulsa because they beat Notre Dame three years ago), this unit appears poised to explode. Notre Dame’s defense on the other hand looks flat and overmatched in its four contests thus far. The unit sorely lacks leadership and in some positions, talent.
In order to slow down Oklahoma, the Irish need to stop the run, a task they have failed to accomplish against lesser opponents this season. The front 3/4 must play their gaps and eat up enough blockers to allow the linebackers to make plays. A key matchup to watch is the All-American battle between Louis Nix and Gabe Ikard. Nix will face his toughest challenge of the year against Ikard and the excellent guards to his left and right. How well Nix disrupts the interior of the Sooner’s offensive line will determine how effective the Irish are at stopping Oklahoma’s rushing game. The return of Sheldon Day will also be huge.
If Oklahoma picks up big yards on the ground, Bob Diaco will be forced to blitz to stop the run which leaves Notre Dame’s defensive backs in man coverage with Oklahoma’s wide receivers and the middle of the field wide open. With Bell’s accuracy and his receivers’ speed, it’s only a matter of time before they break a big play.
I know I sound like a downer, but the truth is, I really want the Irish to win this game. I want them to right the ship and show the nation that this team can compete year-in-and-year-out. But I cannot overlook the defensive struggles. The confidence and tenacity of the 2012 defense has been replaced by skepticism and uncertainty in the 2013 version. It seems that the players are waiting for someone to step up and make a play. Oklahoma will not help them solve their issues. Let’s hope we keep it close.
From Staff Writer Tim Colin:
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.