Thursday, October 25, 2012
Notre Dame prediction: Week 9 at Oklahoma
By Matt Fortuna
The moment of truth is finally here. Do the 7-0 Irish keep it going in Norman, Okla.?
When Notre Dame has the ball: Establish the run early. The Irish have moved the ball successfully against a pair of very good run defenses in Stanford and BYU the past two weeks, and they will have their hands full again Saturday. They need to mix and match their three backs, get home run threat George Atkinson III on the field more and have Everett Golson at least show that he's a threat to run when things break down. Brian Kelly is not a time-of-possession guy, but that formula can prove beneficial if things open up early for the Irish. Protecting the ball is priority No. 1.
When Oklahoma has the ball: Get after Landry Jones early and often. The quarterback has been phenomenal the past three weeks, but he has yet to win over the entire Sooners fan base in large part because of his penchant for untimely mistakes, which already cost Oklahoma earlier this year against Kansas State. Notre Dame needs to limit chunk plays and control the line of scrimmage, giving its young defensive backs a chance against the most talented group of skill players it has faced to this point.
Intangible: Notre Dame can't look ahead, but I can. With a 7-0 start and games left against Pitt, BC and Wake, this is, at minimum, a BCS-bowl season for the Irish. They are huge underdogs despite being the No. 5 team in the country. If ever there were an underrated good Irish team, this may be it. The pressure is all on Oklahoma to avoid a second home loss and stay in the national title mix. Notre Dame has a path to 11-0 going into the finale at USC if it can escape Owen Field victorious, and there's something to be said for the looseness of the team going into another big game. Big 12 defenses don't come close to Notre Dame's, either.
Prediction: Oklahoma 20, Notre Dame 13. The more I study this, the more I think the Irish have a very good chance to win, but I just don't have it in me yet to pull the trigger and pick the upset over a Sooners team that's been on a roll lately.