If the Irish are going to win this one, it is going to be on the backs of the defense, particularly the front 7.
Oklahoma has been on a tear since its one loss of the season, scoring over 50 per game. In the past, OU’s Landry Jones has been inaccurate when his rhythm is interrupted and Notre Dame will need to find some way to make that happen. The captain of the defense and Heisman dark horse candidate, Manti Teo will need to keep the defense focused and locked in on Jones (and hopefully pull in a couple of the turnovers he dished up so readily against Michigan’s Denard Robinson). Notre Dame’s young cornerbacks will also have to maintain excellent coverage to avoid the quick releases that other quarterbacks that Notre Dame has faced have not managed to do with any consistency. Otherwise, any pressure on Jones will be all for naught.
The burden of the team falls on the defense because, quite frankly, Notre Dame’s offense cannot score 50 points. Notre Dame was dealt a major blow when it was announced that running back George Atkinson III would not be making the trip to Norman because of flu-like symptoms. While Atkinson is not ND’s first back, he is their source of speed and outside yards and can be a major threat on punt returns. Golson, while showing tremendous talent, cannot be counted on to drive the team up and down the field, so the defense Is going to have to keep the game close into the fourth quarter and hope for an upset win in the closing minutes.
Notre Dame does have several things going for it, any one of which may prove to be the difference maker in this game. One: a really good defense. The game may be in their hands, but they have done it before. Let’s not forget that besides the two touchdowns by BYU (one of which was with a short field), their defense has allowed very few points since week 2. Two: a closer in Tommy Rees. If Golson gets rattled, injured, or if it just comes down to the two-minute offense, there is no backup QB in the country I’d rather have. Finally, three: Manti Teo. The man is a beast and is without question the leader of the team. If anyone can keep the team on track it is Notre Dame’s star linebacker. Even so, the luck of the Irish will need to be in full force for this one. GO IRISH!