#5 Notre Dame @ #8 Oklahoma: Key Matchups

everett golson ou matchup
East Lansing, MI, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish quarterback Everett Golson (5) attempts to hand of the ball to running back Theo Riddick (6) during the first half against the Michigan State Spartans at Spartan Stadium. (Photo: Mike Carter-US PRESSWIRE)

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.

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  1. If you ask me, this game is going to tell us what KELLY is made of. This is probably the biggest game of his life. I cant imagine it will be difficult to motivate the players, but let’s see what kind of game plan he comes out with. What is he going to have Golson doing? Golson had a nice first half vs sorry Miami, but vs Stanford he was running around like a chicken with his head cut off while taking BIG hits. I think he’s going to have to run a lot. Maybe it wouldn’t be a bad idea throwing Hendrix in again. I don’t know, but if ND doesn’t make a game out of this, then my opinion of Kelly diminishes substantially.

  2. The Irish are having a great year. Despite what others may say, they have played a difficult schedule and are undefeated – very impressive. They are extremely young and have certainly exceeded expectations to date. I predicted an 8-4 or 9-3 regular season with a win in a bowl game. However, they now have an opportunity to have a special season and win 10 or more games in the regular season and secure a berth in a BCS bowl. They will have to continue to play well this weekend to remain undefeated, for the Irish face their toughest opponent to date. I believe the Irish can will the ballgame but they are going to have to play their best game of the season – be nearly perfect. Oklahoma is playing extremely well and are playing at home – which certainly gives them an advantage. I think the Irish can hang around and have a chance to win if they do the following:

    -run the ball extremely well (thereby taking time off the clock and shortening the game)
    -Golson must play well, take advantage of opportunities to run and throw the ball effectively
    -the defense must play as well as they have all year and not give up big plays
    -ND cannot turn the ball over – period

    If the Irish can do these things, which is a tall order in Norman, Oklahoma, then I truly believe they have a chance to win. This Irish team is a special team – they seem to be a team that plays for each other and truly believes in one another. Perhaps that is why I believe they have a chance to win this weekend.

    Go Irish!!!

  3. I understand why the red-zone is challenging when Tommy is in as he is not a threat to run. With guys as tall as Eifert and Koyack, either a slasher like EG or a pounder like Hendrix, and finally a group of great backs, I feel like we should be really scary in the Red-zone. I picture QB rolling with a run option or tossing high to Eifert. How do you stop that?

  4. Nice analysis. My two cents (adjusted for inflation):

    Irish Win if:

    1. We keep the Sooner O off the field. Their secondary is better than their front 7, so we have to be able to run the ball. Need a solid day from the RBs and have to get golson involved early in the run game. Worked for KState.

    2. Jones doesn’t make the best of decisions when pressured. Tuitt, Shembo, KLM…onus is on you guys to hit him early and often. If he has time to throw our secondary will eventually be overwhelmed by the quality OU receivers.

    3. In the first few games, the Sooners failed to create turnovers. Those were tight games. In that last few, their D has nine takeaways and those have been blowouts. EG has to have better ball security.

    4. While we normally gripe about our lack of a return game…this week I would settle for stopping OK’s returns. Happily take a draw there.

    5. A little trickeration wouldn’t hurt.

    6. Brindza needs to kick about 400 balls in practice this week. If we can keep this close it may end up coming down to needing him and, after last week, that is a concern.

    Oh well, probably stated the obvious. But, i feel better. It’s a winnable game, but their strengths mirror our weaknesses. Gonna have to be solid, mistake free and plodding on O. Defensively, nasty and fast.

    My gut is ND 23, Sooners 20.

    Go Irish

    1. Yes indeed, Mr. Delta, I like your “trickeration” concept too! Golson is not a total neophyte. EG is definately a bright guy! Without a doubt, BK knows exactly what “trickeration” play will work in EG’s comfort zone.

      Excellent points as always!

      Here come the Irish!

    2. Hopefully the only kicks Brindza hasare extra points and kick-offs. We can’t settle for FGs in this game. WE NEED TDs inside the redzone!

      1. Amen Rob,

        We can’t just walk in to Norman and expect to come from behind at the last minute. Not going to happen against OU!

        We definately need more than just game management as demonstrated last week. A balanced attack will be required to stay in the lead and win!

  5. I don’t have neophobia concerning this game. If our defense can shut down OU coupled with EG can maintaining a lead we are 8-0. Definately doable!

    Here come the Irish!

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