Notre Dame football: Keys to the game
FIRST TRUE TEST?
While Notre Dame has just finished its Big Ten swing of legit opponents like Michigan, Purdue and Michigan State, Oklahoma has had three lightweights before last week's bye. Sooner victims haven't been very impressive. Louisiana Monroe's signature win this season has been a two-point squeaker over Wake Forest; West Virginia owns conquests over William & Mary and Georgia State, while Tulsa has knocked off Colorado State for its lone victory.
CAN BELLDOZER THROW?
There was a time when Oklahoma's Blake Bell was a four-star quarterback recruit out of Wichita, Kan. The 6-foot-6, 252-pound redshirt junior may have been typecast as a red-zone, pile-driver kind of QB, who relieved Landry Jones inside the opponents' 10-yard line last season and somehow bullied his way into the end zone. Against Tulsa, Bell completed 27 of 37 passes for 413 yards and four TDs, adding a new dimension to his resume.
FACT OR FICTION?
Running backs Brennan Clay and Damien Williams have combined for nearly 170 rushing yards a game. Again, consider the competition. If the Oklahoma running game is able to be as potent against a Notre Dame defense that yields 114 yards on the ground each game, the Sooner offense will have the Irish directly behind the 8-ball.
RUN IRISH, RUN
Eighty-two rushing yards won't cut it against Oklahoma, like it did in the win over Michigan State. Notre Dame has to figure out a way to make its ground game work against the Sooners' 3-3-5 defense. With Oklahoma better built to defend a spread offense, this could be the ideal time for the Irish to unveil a power game that will allow the offensive line to dominate the line of scrimmage while giving George Atkinson, Amir Carlisle and the other backs an opportunity to succeed.
Oklahoma's defense, ranked No. 5 (scoring) in the country, has limited opponents to just 27 percent in successful third-down conversions. That's a challenge for the Notre Dame offense, especially quarterback Tommy Rees. Ball control will be essential. Whether it's hitting the short pass, or checking to a run off tackle, ND's ability to move the chains will dictate how the Irish game plan unfolds.