Notre Dame moved to 3-1 on the season with a victory over Michigan State in a hard fought defensive battle. The Irish did not look efficient on offense versus the Spartans and have a big challenge coming to South Bend in the undefeated Oklahoma Sooners. The Sooners will be playing their first road game of the season when they face the Irish and will be looking to prove they are an elite team and not just a team undefeated because of their weak schedule thus far. The following are the key matchups the Irish must win to be successful versus the Sooners:
Louis Nix versus Gabe Ikard: Just as it was last year the matchup of Irish nose guard Louis Nix and Sooners center Gabe Ikard will be pivotal in deciding the game. Nix is an All-American talent considered by many to be the best nose guard in the country, his counterpart Ikard is considered to be the same at the center position. Nix controlled the matchup when the two met in Norman last season and he’s going to have to win it again when the two seniors go at it in order to disrupt the Sooners ground attack and also pressure quarterback Blake Bell into bad decisions.
Jarrett Grace versus Blake Bell: Irish linebacker Jarrett Grace is experiencing his first season as a regular contributor at Notre Dame and despite being a work in progress leads the team in tackles with 28. Grace will be in for a challenge in Oklahoma quarterback Blake Bell. Bell is a dual-threat quarterback as he is a punishing runner who can also throw the ball well. Bell has completed 70 percent of his passes this season for 451 yards and four touchdowns. Grace will have all of his skills tested as he must contain Bell’s success running the ball while also matching up on Oklahoma receivers and running backs as the Sooners spread the field with their passing attack.
DaVaris Daniels versus Gabe Lynn: As the season has progressed DaVaris Daniels has continued to prove he is the big play threat for the Irish and will likely draw the opposition’s number one corner on most occasions, this week that is Gabe Lynn. Daniels has dominated so far this season and when he hasn’t been recording catches he has been drawing pass interference penalties as he is extremely difficult to cover man to man. Sooner cornerback Gabe Lynn will need to shut Daniels down or the Irish receiver could have a huge day. Lynn is a senior who leads the Sooners in interceptions with two and also has a fumble recovery this season. If Daniels can beat Lynn in one-on-one coverage it will make Tommy Rees’s life much easier when it comes to moving the ball downfield.
Cam McDaniel versus Corey Nelson: Irish running back Cam McDaniel is the man the Irish coaching staff has intrusted with the responsibility to earn the tough yards running the football. Notre Dame will need to experience success running the ball versus the Sooners because without balance on offense they will struggle. McDaniel will be meeting Sooners linebacker Corey Nelson is the hole most of the afternoon. Nelson, a senior from Texas, is the Sooners leading tackler so far this season with 20 and also has a sack and three pass breakups. McDaniel will need to wear down Nelson and win the majority of their meetings as the Irish will need every inch as the team has struggled immensely in the run game, particularly in short yardage.