The Oklahoma Sooners have been on a roll lately, winning their last three games by an average score of 52-16. The Notre Dame Fighting Irish, meanwhile, have just survived yet another one possession game by edging past BYU, 17-14. Surely, Oklahoma will put the boots to Notre Dame and pop another Irish Bubble. Surely Notre Dame does not deserve to be in the list of national championship contenders, and is ready to get put in their place by a real major program. Excuse us if we think that's a load of old rubbish.
There's a lot of misconceptions and myths about these two teams, so we here at FightingIrish101 think it only makes sense to look at them one by one:
Oklahoma is a REAL contender, Notre Dame is just a pretender.
This is the silliest argument, so that's why it is being tackled first. Oklahoma has played exactly one team that has a chance to play in a major bowl game (Kansas State) and they lost that game in a close 24-19 ball game. In their only other game against decent competition (Texas Tech), their offense was held in check and benefited from Texas Tech playing poor offense and turning the ball over three times. And lest we forget, this is the team that took four quarters to beat UTEP.
This is all to say that the 2012 Oklahoma team does not exactly have a lot of impressive heads on their trophy wall. The teams that have given Oklahoma problems are a lot like Notre Dame: run first offenses that control the clock complimented by an excellent front seven that overwhelms Oklahoma's very poor front five. If either of these teams is a pretender, it's the team that gets dominated up front on both sides of the ball. That would be the boys in red, in case you've lost track here.
Notre Dame's pass defense is a weakness
This is the biggest load of uninformed nonsense. Coming into the season, Notre Dame's young secondary was singled out as a weakness on the team. The reasoning went that because of natural roster turnover and some bad luck with injuries, Notre Dame's secondary would let them down. The problem? It has not been a weakness at any point during actual games.
The fact is, the young players brought in by Kelly in his first two years on campus are, for the most part, light years better than the undercoached (and under-talented) players who filled the secondary during the Charlie Weis era. Lo Wood, in particular, was probably going to lose his starting corner position anyway and had been outplayed all off season in practice.
One team has managed to throw for 200 yards this season against Notre Dame, and that was Miami. Notre Dame won that game 41-3, and Miami managed only 201 yards while just chucking passes from behind. The idea that Notre Dame's secondary is just begging to be eviscerated is just a lazy sports media meme that only makes sense if you never bother to watch Notre Dame's defense play.
Notre Dame won't be able to score on Oklahoma's excellent Stoops defense
I'm not going to sit here an argue that Notre Dame's offense is a wrecking machine. But at some point, Bob Stoops has to stop being treated like he's Buddy Ryan. Oklahoma has done a great job limiting scoring opportunities by opponents, but they have given up over 600 yards TWICE this season. They gave up 300+ yards of passing to KANSAS STATE, who make their bones running the ball between the tackles.
Further, with the exception of Texas Tech and Kansas State, the defenses of the Big 12 are, as a group, more focused on putting speed on the field to combat the spread offenses prevalent in the conference, often at the expense of their physicality. Anyone who watches Big 12 football sees a lot of big uglies on defense getting pushed around. Given the physical way Notre Dame plays offense, it would not be a big surprise to see Notre Dame post some gaudy rushing titles, and manage some big play action passes off those runs. This ain't Alabama, this is the team that gave up 400+ yards to UTEP.
Notre Dame can't pull this off on the road!
Since Brian Kelly came to Notre Dame, most of their best performances have come on the road. If anything, Notre Dame has struggled more at home than away from the friendly confines of South Bend. Their most dominated performances in 2012 have either come on neutral fields or on the road in East Lansing. It's not like Notre Dame's players are accustomed to getting much of a home field advantage, given someone felt the need to make this.
Sure, Chicago and Dublin are not Norman, Oklahoma. But Norman ain't what it used to be. After years of dominating all home games, Stoops' Sooners have started to show vulnerability at home. At the end, it all comes down to the previously mentioned regression of their defensive prowess and the lack of physical domination that the Sooners used to possess over most of their competition.
College football is a funny sport. Everett Golson might freak out and throw five interceptions tomorrow, three for touchdowns, and Notre Dame might get blown to smithereens. A lot of REALLY smug talking heads on television will say, "Well, we told you so."
But given the way Oklahoma has played against quality defenses, and given the way Notre Dame has played against equally talented teams (including teams with FAR superior defensive units) it seems a lot more likely that this will be a close game down to the wire, and that the winner will need a great deal of lucky bounces to leave the stadium happy. That's why we told you to take Notre Dame and the points earlier this week, and that's why we're telling you not to let the Negative Nancies out there drag you down.
Notre Dame can do this.
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