It will be a classic matchup of College Football Titans when the 8th ranked Oklahoma Sooners host the 5th ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium, Saturday night at 7:00 p.m.
Sooner tackle Casey Walker knows how difficult it will be to stop the Irish running game.,
The strength of the Notre Dame offense has been its rushing attack. The Irish rank 38th in the country, averaging 193.9 rushing yards per game. Last week against BYU (10/20), Theo Riddick rushed for a career-high 143 yards, while Cierre Wood added 114 yards. All-American TE Tyler Eifert leads ND with 319 receiving yards and 3 touchdowns.
"They have run the ball very effectively,” said Oklahoma Defensive Coordinator Mike Stoops. “That's the thing that jumps out at you over the last three games. I think they've rushed the ball about 40 times a game. They want to wear on you; they want to force the run game at you. They then want to try and hit some passes down the field. They'll do some play-action off the run. They play a very physical style of football. They control the ball that way and that's been a good formula for them."
“But obviously they like to run the ball,” said Senior Defensive End David King. “They have two backs and they've got a pretty good tight end so we're going to have to do a good job of trying to control the line of scrimmage. That's been a key for us these past three weeks, and it's going to play a huge factor in deciding who wins or loses this game Saturday."
Everett Golson will start at quarterback for Notre Dame on Saturday. Golson underwent a cardiovascular test Monday to ensure his full recovery after suffering a concussion against the Stanford Cardinal on October 13th.
Golson was cleared to practice last week, but was held out against Brigham Young in favor of Tommy Rees, who threw for 117 yards, a touchdown, and an interception.
Golson’s transition to college starter has been choppy. He threw for 968 yards with four touchdowns and three interceptions in his first six games, before sitting out the BYU contest. His ability to scramble has paid dividends at times, but put him in a vulnerable position at others.
"He's a guy that, it's been said a lot and it's true, when there isn't anything there he has a knack for breaking tackle or making somebody miss him,” said Oklahoma Head Coach Bob Stoops. “[He] runs around so he can buy extra time and scramble and wait for someone to work open or take off and run it himself. He's got excellent feet that way."
The Irish have made a more concerted effort to throw to senior tight end Tyler Eifert (19 receptions for 319 yards and three touchdowns) in the past two weeks, and junior T.J. Jones (21 catches for 275 yards and two scores) is also coming into his own.
OU's David King will try to get pressure on the Irish quarterbacks.
“They've got some great tight ends and probably the best tight end in the country, number 80, [Tyler] Eifert, an excellent, excellent player,” said Bob Stoops. “[Theo] Riddick, their running back, is also a guy that's made a ton of plays for them.”
This will be classic smash mouth football this weekend in Norman. While it might be an understatement, whoever controls the line of scrimmage will win the football game. The Sooners must control the Irish running game (the addition of Stacy McGee will certainly help that) and be able to handle the Irish passing game with mostly man to man coverage. That should free up the nickel and dime guys to blitz Golson unmercifully.
The Sooners take this one at home, 31-24.