NOTRE DAME FIGHTING IRISH (7-0)
at OKLAHOMA SOONERS (5-1)
Kickoff: Saturday, 8:00 p.m. EDT
Line: Oklahoma -11, Total: 48
No. 5 Notre Dame tries to stay unbeaten when it faces its toughest test of the season, a trip to No. 8 Oklahoma.
Notre Dame is 8-1 SU all-time versus Oklahoma, but the schools have played just once since 1969, a 34-30 Irish win in 1999. Notre Dame is on a two-game ATS skid, and has scored 20 points or less five times this year. But the Irish have not allowed more than 17 points in a game this year, ranking second in FBS with 9.4 PPG allowed and placing sixth in the nation with 281 YPG allowed. No Sooners opponent has eclipsed 24 points in 2012, as the offense has piled up 52.0 PPG and 485 YPG during a three-game win streak (SU and ATS).
Can Oklahoma win comfortably against the Irish on Saturday night? For the answer, connect to The Platinum Sheet for all the StatFox Experts picks for every key college football game throughout the 2012 season.
Notre Dame will start Everett Golson under center for this game after sitting out last week's win over BYU because of a concussion. He has reached 200 passing yards just once this year and his overall numbers aren't fantastic: 58.5% completions, 7.2 YPA, 4 TD, 3 INT. Backup QB Tommy Rees could also play for a fifth straight game, but he struggled against the Cougars last week, completing 7-of-16 passes for 117 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT. However, the running game will be much more vital to the Irish's success on Saturday. They rushed for 270 yards last week, 150 the prior week and 376 against Miami three weeks ago. Theo Riddick (451 rush yds, 3 TD) had a season-high 143 rushing yards on 9.5 YPC in last week's win, while Cierre Wood (393 rush yds, 2 TD) rumbled for 114 yards on 18 attempts (6.3 YPC). Defensively, Notre Dame simply has no weakness, ranking 14th in the nation in passing defense (174 YPG) and 16th in FBS against the run (107 YPG). Although the Tackles For Loss numbers are weak (4.7 per game, T-102nd in nation), the 2.7 sacks per game rank 21st in the country. The Irish have forced 2+ turnovers in five of seven games, totaling 17 takeaways this season.
Oklahoma enters Saturday with a 79-4 SU record at home under Bob Stoops. QB Landry Jones has eclipsed 300 passing yards just once this season, but he has thrown for 880 yards, 7 TD and 1 INT in his past three games, leading his team to 15 scores (12 TD, 3 FG) in the past 20 drives. But the Sooners rely on Kenny Stills way too much, as his 38 catches are 15 more than any other teammate, and he's the only player to reach 300 receiving yards this year with 471 yards and 4 TD. Notre Dame has allowed just 5 TD through the air this year, while racking up 12 INT. Oklahoma ran all over Texas two weeks ago (343 yards), but has averaged just 101 rushing YPG on 4.1 YPC in its other three games versus BCS opponents (all in Big 12). Going up against an Irish defense that hasn't allowed a single rushing touchdown this year will certainly be a challenge. Damien Williams leads the Sooners with 552 rushing yards and 7 TD, but has been held under 50 rushing yards in three of the past four games. Defensively, Oklahoma has been pretty solid all year, not allowing more than 24 points in a game, and ranking among the nation's top-15 in passing defense (164 YPG, 9th), scoring defense (15.3 PPG, 12th) and total defense (303 YPG, 15th). It has also forced three turnovers in each of the past three games. But the pass rush has generated just two sacks per game, a number far below its 3.1 sacks per game in 2011, which ranked eighth in the country.