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Huge game this Saturday as 2 legendary programs clash for only the 10th time in history. We all know about Notre Dame stopping the Sooners' legendary 47 game winning streak and their number of national championships, Heismann winners, etc. Without question, they are an elite program although until recently they've been basically irrelevant. Both teams are ranked in the Top 10 and ESPN's Gameday will be on hand to add to the excitement. Fall will definitely be in the air as it will be pretty cool during the game. OU has only beaten Notre Dame 1 time in the history of the series. Funny how we never got to play Notre Dame when we were up and they were down. (decade of the 2000's) But OU has their chance now. During my lifetime there are many games that I wanted OU to really win. (actually all of them but that's not possible). This might be the ONE game that I really want OU to win more than any other probably in the last 25 years or so. It's a biggie! Surprisingly I had a confident and good feeling about this game even after the K-State game. For some reason, I always thought OU would win this game. Notre Dame is better than I thought but they certainly aren't unbeatable. This is how I see it.
OFFENSE-To me, this is the key-can the OU offense move against the ND defense? Notre Dame is very, very strong and physical on defense. They are well coached and have several AA type candidates on that side of the ball. When you look at their scores, defense has prevailed in most of them. The OU offensive line must protect Landry and the OU offense must avoid turnovers and negative plays. If they do, they will win. I don't think Notre Dame can stop all of the weapons on OU's offense. It seems we get a new playmaker every week. Plus, Notre Dame has not played an offense like this. I fully expect OU to run up tempo right off the bat. Field position will be key. OU can't afford to have to go 80+ yards at the start of their drives. On the other hand, OU can't afford to give Notre Dame good field position to help their offense. Expect some 3 and outs-Notre Dame's defense is that good. But as the game unfolds, I think the OU running game, hurry up offense and most importantly-the passing game will start to take over. Notre Dame has speed on defense but as I said-they haven't played an offense like OU's. If OU can establish some sort of running game early (likely the biggest key aside from avoiding turnovers), it will open up the passing game and play action passing. This would be huge. Shephard, Stills, Brown, Saunders and Millard (yes, Trey is FINALLY getting involved in the offense) will put a bunch of pressure on the Notre Dame secondary and big plays could occur. The OL MUST protect Landry and he must make smart decisions with the football. Notre Dame will have succes on defense. How much depends on the execution of the OU offense.
DEFENSE-The OU defense is playing at a high level right now. Last week there were a few glitches but that is to be expected-hard to be focused on every play of every game. This game won't be like that. Notre Dame will try and establish their run game early and often. They are very, very physical and will try to run straight up the middle on OU. If they do that, it could be a tough and very close game. Expect Mike Stoops and staff to throw some new wrinkles on defense and likely load the box making the ND QB throw the ball. He's very good but young. The crowd will be loud and pumped and if OU can pressure him-he likely will make mistakes. It is vitally important here to cause some 3 and outs and don't let ND control the ball and keep OU's offense off the field. This is the side of the ball where the crowd can really help. I hope everyone is pumped. I'm confident that the OU secondary can control ND's passing game. Stop the run and give field position to the offense and let the OU offense have numerous chances with the ball and OU will be fine.
SPECIAL TEAMS-While I don't expect anything like we saw last week, OU must cover on punts and kickoffs. I always emphasize this point of any game because it often goes unnoticed until a big play results from poor coverage which normally changes momentum drastically. (A$M, Missouri, and Texas a few years ago). OU has been solid in coverage all year and I don't expect anything different in this game. Scoring TD's in the red zone instead of field goals will be key. My hope is that OU can get an early and substantial lead so Notre Dame will have to abandon their game plan (running the ball) and get them out of their comfort zone. They will be relying on their defense and run game to win. Their special teams are solid and they likely will not beat themselves.
PREDICTION-I think this OU team will be focused like they haven't been all year. Coach Stoops mentioned that he will talk about the OU-ND history but that it wouldn't make any difference-he's right about that but it probably made the players realize the tradition of these 2 schools and how fortunate they are to be carrying on the OU tradition. This game has been marked on the calendar by the fans for a long time-they need to be involved and I feel certain they will be if for no other reason-to keep warm! The Sooners are playing well and the home crowd will help. Notre Dame is solid and fundamentally sound and well coached. And they have talent-lots of talent. But the OU team is on a mission and I don't think Notre Dame will be ready for this type of offense. If the OU offense gets enough chances with the ball and doesn't turn it over-the game is theirs to lose. I don't think they will blow that chance. I'll say OU-31, Notre Dame-14.
Skip, I've agreed with you all year, including a couple of your more pessimistic picks, and I agree with this one as well. I think M. Stoops is going to dare ND's young QB to pass, and the atmosphere will be very intimidating for him to deal with. May be wishful thinking, but if OU doesn't turn the ball over, I'll be surprised if ND scores more than 14. Should be fun to watch.
I wish you would have picked us to lose, like you did Tech and Tu, I would feel better about our chances! j/k skip! Good analysis as always and I look for a great game and atmosphere, with the Good guys winning 35-38 to 10-17 for the domers.
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