The Irish squeaked by BYU to move to 7-0 on the season and set up their toughest test so far, a trip to Norman to take on the Sooners. College Gameday will be in attendance for the top ten showdown between the fifth ranked Irish and eight ranked Sooners, with BCS implications hanging in the balance. The following matchups are crucial to the Irish’s success this week versus Oklahoma:
Everett Golson versus Javon Harris
Everett Golson will return from concussion this week to lead the Irish into a hostile environment versus Oklahoma in primetime. Awaiting Golson will be the Sooners senior safety Javon Harris. Harris is a ball-hawking safety with four interceptions already this season, one of which he returned for a touchdown. If Golson has a shaky start in primetime as he did versus Michigan, Harris will make him pay. Furthermore, Harris is second on Oklahoma in tackles with 34, so he will challenge Golson physically; making it of paramount importance the Irish quarterback kicks his habit of coughing up the football. Harris stated the Sooners will “impose our (their) will” on the Irish. A strong performance by Golson can go a long way to quieting Harris.
Tyler Eifert versus Tony Jefferson
This battle of top-notch NFL prospects will go a long way in determining the success of the Irish offense on Saturday night. Tyler Eifert is coming off back- to-back quality performances versus Stanford and BYU. The Irish’s all-American tight-end is the only non-offensive lineman on the Irish offense to start all seven games this season and leads the team in receiving with 319 yards and three touchdowns. In Tony Jefferson, Eifert will see the other half of the Sooners stud safety duo. Jefferson leads the Sooners in tackles with 48 and has also recorded an interception. Jefferson is the leader of the Sooner defense and will be the biggest part of the group effort that is shutting down Eifert.
Louis Nix versus Gabe Ikard
Football is won in the trenches, and a big performance from Irish nose-guard Louis Nix can disrupt the Sooners offense this week. Oklahoma’s offense places a heavy emphasis on timing; therefore, pressure up the middle from Nix can create many problems for Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones. Additionally if Nix, who has recorded 26 tackles on the season, can create an initial push and get in the backfield he can all but eliminate the effectiveness of the “BellDozer” Blake Bell. Attempting to slow down Nix will be junior Gabe Ikard. Ikard will be giving up size to Nix at 6’3’’ 288 pounds, but he was an all-Big 12 first team selection last season.
Manti Te’o versus Damien Williams
Another week, another elite running back for Manti Te’o to shut down. This week’s challenge is Oklahoma’s Damien Williams. Williams is averaging an impressive 7.5 yards per carry for 552 yards and seven touchdowns this season. He has also added 11 receptions for 134 yards, giving him the team lead in all-purpose yards with 686. Williams also has one of the highlights of the college football season so far with his 95 yard touchdown run versus Texas. There isn’t much to say about Manti Te’o that hasn’t been said already. Te’o is the Irish’s leader on and off the field; he either leads or is tied for the team lead in tackles, interceptions, fumble recoveries, breakups, and pass deflections. Te’o will lead the Irish defense against their toughest challenge thus far this season, and he will need to pace the defense with his strong play once again for Notre Dame to remain unbeaten.