Tim O'Malley -- Publisher/Managing EditorThe first seven games of the 2012 season have illustrated two truths regarding Brian Kelly's Irish while reinforcing another:
Truth #1: The Irish have a front four as good as anyone's in the nation, and with Manti Te'o behind it and Bob Diaco in charge of it, a defense that allows them to win any game.
Truth #2: If a football game is played to the final possession, favor belongs to Kelly's 2012 Irish.
Truth #3: Notre Dame doesn't score on teams with decent defenses. They're 1-9 when the opponent tops 21 points in the Kelly era, with a 2011 59-33 victory over Air Force marking the victory. (The Falcons scored two TD after the Irish led 59-19 and emptied their bench late.)
They've not recently proved they can score more than two touchdowns on a team with a defensive pulse, at least since a trip to Wake Forest last November, and we're pushing it with the inclusion of the Demon Deacons defense.
For this unfortunate prediction, my instinct and relatable statistics are in agreement. Look for the Irish defense to play its best against the best offense its faced, keeping Notre Dame close into the fourth quarter, but for the offense to make a mistake that turns a 16-7 deficit into an insurmountable 23-7 hole and 26-13 Oklahoma victory.
Cheers to a fourth truth: I've been wrong before...
Brian Dohn -- Recruiting ReporterI've gone back and forth on this one trying to decide whether Notre Dame's defense is strong enough to stop Oklahoma's powerful offense, and I've wondered if Notre Dame's offense can score enough in Oklahoma.
In the end it comes back to Notre Dame struggling but something is tugging at me and saying the Irish will find a way.
Notre Dame 19 Oklahoma 17
Dave Berk -- Recruiting AnalystThis looks like a major battle but a winnable battle for the Irish as they head to Norman and a 5-1 Oklahoma team. The Irish defense has proven all season to be capable of keeping the Irish in a game and with Everett Golson returning Brian Kelly will have a little more in his offensive playbook to work with. In the end this will be a nail bitter as the Irish surprise everyone with a 24-21 victory.
SeattleNDFan - Mod/Stoops Unbelief Club of GentlemenOklahoma on offense appears to be the most complete team the Irish have faced yet, but has known weaknesses in their offensive line and inconsistent quarterback play. If Notre Dame can get pressure on Landry Jones he can be prone to making multiple mistakes, and just as the Irish defense has not faced an offense like Oklahoma's, neither has Oklahoma faced a front seven like Notre Dame's yet. I do think that this is the week Notre Dame's amazing streak of no rushing touchdowns allowed comes to an end, however.
On defense Oklahoma has the same difficulty that many otherwise sound defenses have containing mobile quarterbacks who can extend plays.
In my opinion this game is the reason we have seen the quarterback situation at Notre Dame handled the way it has been, as Everett Golson is the X factor who could exploit this Sooner defense and allow the Irish to have success running the ball, both with his ability to keep them honest with read option keepers and stretch the field deep to keep the safeties from creeping up into the box. I would expect Mike and Bob Stoops to make Golson prove this from play number one. This is the only game on the schedule that ND cannot win without a mobile QB, and that is why I think Golson has been being groomed a little faster than might be ideal.
If this game were at the end of the season I would have a lot more faith in Golson's ability to rise to the occasion, but as it is I think there are a few more kinks to work out of his game before he's ready to shred good college defenses like I believe he will farther on down the line. This weekend, in Norman, I don't think he'll be quite there yet. The question will be whether what he CAN do will be enough.
Notre Dame 16 Oklahoma 13
GaviND -- Moderator and Recent Diaco ConvertJudging by the way fans in Norman, Oklahoma are speaking about Saturday's epic clash between the Sooners and the Irish, it would appear that the boys from South Bend should not bother even showing up.
Not only has Oklahoma already won this battle of top ten teams, but in some cases, they have hung as many as 50 points on the Irish!
Fortunately for us, their fan-base won't make much of an impact beyond yelling and screaming.
Oklahoma is a very good football team. Period. They represent the greatest challenge the Irish have faced since USC one year ago this weekend. Their running game, primarily featuring Damien Williams and Brennan Clay is impressive and the line blocking for them is solid. That group alone would be enough to beat many teams, but this Oklahoma team also features a very good passing game with seasoned vet Landry Jones dishing the ball to Kenny Stills and Penn State deserter Justin Brown.
Unbeknownst to Oklahoma fans, however, the Irish will not only be showing up, but they will be bringing with them what many consider to be a pretty decent defense. The fate of Oklahoma's electric offense will, in large part, be decided by Louis Nix, Kapron Lewis-Moore, Prince Shembo and Sophomore sensation Stephon Tuitt.
If those four gentlemen do their job as they have all season, they can get to Landry Jones and shake both his timing and his psyche -- especially if they get to him early.
Defensively, the Sooners will provide the Irish with a challenge however, they are not unlike some of the defenses we have played to date.
In order for the Irish to have success Saturday night and have any chance of winning this game the offensive line will need to continue their upward trend and lead the way for Theo Riddick, Cierre Wood and George Atkinson III. If the Irish can pound the ball, all else should fall into place.
At the beginning of the week, I did not think this was a game that the Irish could win. But then it dawned on me: my opinion doesn't matter.
The FIGHTING Irish will be showing up Saturday night and they WILL punch Oklahoma in the mouth. What matters is can Oklahoma walk through those punches and keep punching back.
It'll be a tight one, but I say they won't.
ND 20 OU 17
Morrissey79 -- Moderator with glass always 9/10 full11 point underdogs? Not a college football analyst out there picking the Irish? Every handicapper and message board poster not on a Notre Dame site saying this is the lock of the century, hammer OU?
I wouldn't want it any other way, and you have to believe Brian Kelly and the rest of the Irish staff and team agree.
Oklahoma is big, strong, and fast. They will be the best and most talented team we play up to this point. They have an experienced QB, good running backs, a ton of athletic receivers, a strong defensive line, and a tremendous safety. They also have Bob Stoops, who just 3 years ago was many Notre Dame fans first choice to become the next HC in South Bend.
The game will be in Norman, at night, where the Sooners are almost impeccable in Stoops career. GameDay will be on campus, Musberger and Herbstreit in the booth.
Can the Notre Dame offense move the ball and score points on this Sooner defense? Can Te'o, Tuitt, and the rest of the Irish defense contain this potent OU offense?
Yes, yes they can. I see Golson coming out and playing very well - he has that persona that fits great performances on the road in big games. The OL will continue to be physical and get stronger as the game goes on. The 3 headed monster of Wood, Riddick, and GAIII will continue to run well. And ND will finally hit a deep ball to someone other than Eifert.
The defense will do its thing, primarily getting a great push from Shembo, Nix, Tuitt, and Kap in 4-man rushes. Te'o will continue playing at an all-american level, and the "questionable" secondary will rise to the occasion and make believers out of the critics.
Notre Dame will win a tough, and sometimes ugly game 24-20.
BNolan -- Moderator/Doubting Thomas*Disclaimer: I really, really, hope to be proven wrong on Saturday. Really.
ND is a surprisingly good football team this season. Despite some of the wins getting cheapened with the Big 10 pretty well stinking. And Miami is a joke. But, our D is very good. Our O... not worthy of the ranking, but I digress.
I'm not sure that Oklahoma is as good, across the board, as some people think. But they are still very good, and talented, and fast.
And at home. Best QB we have faced thus far, and he knows all about our secondary. Speed on defense that will make our offense earn yardage on the ground, and make throwing the ball challenging. One QB throws well when he is on his game, and will give the Oklahoma defense enough pause with his mobility to game plan a little more conservatively. The other QB won't scare them and they will tee-off on the line of scrimmage and we will either give the ball away or not score much or at all. Our field goal unit hasn't exactly given me confidence either.
If we play really solid fundamental football (don't give the ball away guys, cool it with the bonehead penalties fellas...) and experience a little luck of the Irish, we can pull out a win. I just don't see in it my admittedly less than perfect crystal ball. If Golson plays, and plays well: ND 20 OU 27. If Rees plays the bulk: ND 10 OU 30
KurzND -- Moderator About TownThis is the game the haters have circled on the Irish schedule as here is where ND gets exposed, while for Irish fans, it is the point for validation.
Oklahoma is the most complete team ND has faced this year as well as a very hot team blowing everyone out of the water since their close loss at home to undefeated Kansas State. Very good defense coordinated by Mike Stoops and an offense that is averaging over 40 points per game.
I don't think Landry Jones is the all-world QB some make him out to be, but still a very good QB. They have weapons on the outside to stretch and attack ND's vulnerable defensive secondary. Oklahoma will want to jump out to a good lead and force ND away from their pound it one the ground and force a young QB in Golson to throw.
For ND it's all about making their presence felt along the lines. The D-Line needs to pressure Landry Jones. If they can get his jersey dirty and rough him up it will go a long way in not letting him get into his rhythm. I don't think Oklahoma will be able to run effectively against the Irish front 7. ND needs to not allow an Oklahoma run game and do their best to get to Landry without having to blitz. On offense, ND doesn't need a the QB to be a winner, but just a guy to not turn it over and grind it out with the running games with some key passes to Jones and Eifert. ND needs to make Oklahoma play their game. Long drives, no quick scores, and just a nasty physical game. They do that they will have a chance.
Notre Dame 17 Oklahoma 13