Oklahoma faces one of its biggest tests when Notre Dame travels to Norman to take on the Sooners at 7 p.m. CT Saturday at Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. SoonerNation reviewed the Irish in their 17-14 win over BYU on Oct. 20 to get a better feel for the test they present. Here are three challenges of facing the Irish which Sooners fans should keep an eye on this weekend:
Dealing with Te’o
Manti Te'o is going to make plays for the Irish on Saturday, it’s just that simple. The key for the Sooners is to limit the overall impact of the Heisman candidate.
The Irish linebacker is special because he can make plays all over the field and has the ability to weave through traffic and make blockers miss on his way to the ball carrier. He is also good in pass coverage with four interceptions this season.
For OU, the key will be finding ways to ensure Te’o is out of the play. That will likely fall on the shoulders of offensive coordinator Josh Heupel and fullback Trey Millard. Heupel can use misdirection and game-planning to take Te’o out of position to make the play. And Millard is one of the few players in college football who can match up athletically with Te’o. In addition, OU will need Damien Williams to win his share of one-on-one battles with Te’o when the duo meet up in the open field.
On the Irish first play against BYU, Notre Dame came out in four wide with tight end Tyler Eifert in the slot on the left side of the formation. Running back Theo Riddick went in motion, making it a five-wide formation. When the Cougars blitzed on the play, quarterback Tommy Rees recognized it immediately and instantly looked Eifert’s way for a 7-yard gain.
The play was the perfect example of the task ahead of the Sooners secondary. Eifert used his big body to shield the defender, catch the ball, and it took three Cougars to get him to the ground. With Gabe Lynn, Tony Jefferson and Julian Wilson, the Sooners have three defensive backs in the 6-0 to 6-2 range with coverage skills, so OU might be more prepared to handle the challenge than most teams.
Generally speaking, Eifert is involved when the Irish offense is rolling.
Don’t be surprised if the Sooners double team him as much as possible, but there will be times when Eifert is in one-on-one situations and he’ll have the advantage with his size and ball skills.
Attacking the Irish in passing situations
With its superb defensive front, Notre Dame feature the ability to get consistent pressure. Defensive ends Kapron Lewis-Moore and Stephon Tuitt tend to move inside to defensive tackle on passing situations, where they can use their quickness inside. Linebackers Ishaq Williams and Prince Shembo line up at defensive end to give the Irish a athletic and quick defensive front in passing situations.
When the Irish rush four, OU’s offensive line has to win that battle. If it doesn’t, it could be a long, uncomfortable night for Landry Jones. When they rush five, Jones have to recognize the blitz and get the ball out quickly.
If Jones is comfortable in the pocket, OU has the clear advantage. The Irish simply don’t have the secondary depth to cover Kenny Stills, Justin Brown, Jalen Saunders, Millard, Williams and the rest of OU’s receiving threats. At least one of those targets will likely find themselves in one-on-one situation each play and they’ll be expected to win that battle.