With the Oklahoma Sooners clicking on all cylinders, Landry Jones and Co. will look to keep the offense rolling and rack up some points against a very stingy Notre Dame defense led by inside linebacker Manti Te’o.
OU Receiver Justin Brown
The Fighting Irish defense is allowing only 9.4 points per game placing second only to Alabama nationally. However, the Irish defense hasn’t played an offense like Oklahoma’s where they will have to account for OU’s multiple weapons and overall speed. The Sooners led by All-American QB candidate Landry Jones will look to stay balanced and establish a running game that is averaging 199.7 yards per game and will also look to air it out to an array of talented receivers. The Sooners are currently up to 20th nationally averaging 290 yards per game.
Jones has seemed to have found his groove and is playing at a high level and is coming off of a 20-29 performance for 300 yards and 3 touchdowns against the Kansas Jayhawks in only 3 quarters of play. His confidence is evident as he steps up in the pocket and delivers strikes to OU’s numerous wide receivers. He now has through 6 games, completed 133-212 with 3 interceptions for 1644 yards and 12 touchdowns for an average of 274.0 yards per game average.
“Landry is playing really well right now and we know what he is capable of so none of it surprises us,” said Head Coach Bob Stoops.
“He is a great leader and has been since he has been here and he is starting to show what kind of player he really is.”
The Sooners have a much improved running game led by junior tailback Damien Williams who has amassed 552 yards on the year to go along with his 7 touchdowns. Williams has shown that he can be a tough inside runner by breaking tackles to pick up extra yardage but has also showed great breakaway speed as evidence by his 95 yard tote in the Cotton Bowl against Texas. He is also a good receiver coming out of the backfield as he has 11 receptions for 134 yards on the year.
Backing up Williams is junior Brennan Clay who has played very well this year. The 5-11, 201 pound junior from San Diego has come on both running the ball and in the special teams area. Clay has 216 yards and 3 TD’s (7.3 yard average) and in doing so, has shown that he has regained the speed that he possessed when he arrived at OU. He is averaging 29.7 yards per return on kickoffs as well.
Junior Trey Millard is the “X-Factor” in this offense as defenses have to account for the 6-2, 256 pound junior from Columbia, MO. Millard lines up all over the field and has carried the ball 14 times for 110 yards on the year. Whether he lines up in the slot, at tight end, running back or fullback, he provides yet another option for Landry Jones and the powerful Sooner offense.
Senior Dom Whaley is now the third back to come off the bench but still has shown some great running ability averaging 6.3 ypc (241 yards on 38 carries) and gives OU some much needed depth at the position.
At the beginning of the year, the wide receiver corps was an unproven commodity for the Sooners. Now it is a team strength and is led by Junior Kenny Stills and Senior Justin Brown. Both have shown big play ability and possess great speed on the outside. Combine that with the play of slot receivers Sterling Shepard and Jalen Saunders and OU has a receiving corps second to none in the country. Depth is also present as Trey Metoyer, Durron Neal and Lacoltan Bester along with the aforementioned Trey Millard all make up one of the most explosive and deep positions for the Sooners.
As stated earlier, the Fighting Irish hasn’t seen an offense of OU’s caliber but it can be argued that the Sooners haven’t played a defense the likes of Notre Dame either. Brian Kelly has his defense clicking right now as they rank 13th in the nation in rushing yards allowed at 174 yards per game and 106.7 through the air. Heisman candidate and inside linebacker Manti Te’o had 2 interceptions last week against BYU to help the Irish avoid the upset 17-14. The Laie, Hawaii native leads the team with 69 total tackles (33 solo) on the year and is a force stopping the run. What separates Te’o from other linebackers around the country is that he can drop back into pass coverage and is very successful as he also leads the Irish in interceptions with (4).
The Irish’s other linebacker Dan Fox was voted as the Notre Dame newcomer of the year last year and hasn’t disappointed thus far in 2012 as he is third on the team with 33 tackles (13 solo) and also plays both the run and pass well. The third ‘backer is Prince Shembo and he has been productive as well with 27 total tackles (10 solo) on the year.
Much has been made of the Irish’s defensive front and although they will play a huge role in stopping Oklahoma’s run game, this reporter’s opinion is that the Irish secondary will be the unit to watch in this game. Led by safety Zeke Motta, the Notre Dame secondary will have its hands full dealing with all the OU wideouts and fullback Trey Millard. Motta is second on the team with 40 tackles (17 solo) followed by corner Bennett Jackson (30 total, 19 solo). Last week against BYU, Jackson was all over the field along with defensive end Stephon Tuitt who finished with five tackles (2 solo). DB KeiVarae Russell rounds out the Irish secondary with 29 tackles on the year (18 solo) and it is he that will be picked on the most as the true freshman will be lined up across from both Stills and Justin Brown depending on what play the Sooners run and the formation they are in at the time. Last week, Russell had 6 total tackles (all solo) and was disruptive in the passing game as he forced the (BYU) Cougars to look to the other side for most of the night. Look for OU to test this match-up early and often until Russell proves that he can cover either Stills or Brown.
Contrary to what some in the national media think (all have OU winning but by a close margin), the Sooners should score more than 24 points in this game. Sterling Shepard has a huge game over the middle and the OU passing game puts up big numbers. Notre Dame will hold OU’s run game in check but will not be able to contain Landry Jones and his plethora of wide receivers. It will be a seat squirmer for 3 quarters but OU will pull away in the fourth and win it 34-17.