When it comes to Oklahoma and Notre Dame football the only stat that really matters to Sooner fans is 1-9. One win and nine losses to one of the most storied football programs in the history of college football just sticks in the craw of Sooner fans. This will be Bob Stoops' third crack at the Irish but even before his current two-game slide against Notre Dame, Oklahoma was riding a five-game losing streak that dates back to a 7-0 loss in 1957. It was a pretty significant loss because it was the first time the Sooners had walked off the field without winning a game since a 7-7 tie against Pittsburgh on October 3rd of 1953. Bringing about an end to the longest winning streak in the history of major college football will certainly not endear a fanbase to you. Losing seven consecutive times against that team will cause the fanbase to downright hate you.
That pretty much sets the tone for Oklahoma's trip to South Bend this weekend. The only Sooner victory in this series came on the road when they trounced the Irish 40-0 in 1956. History certainly isn't on OU's side this weekend but if there is a silver lining its in the fact that the only place the Sooners have been able to win in this series is at Notre Dame.
Offensively, this Notre Dame team is a bit different than the one that left Norman with a 30-13 win last season. Quarterback Tommy Rees isn't likely to pull the ball and hurt you with his feet, like Everett Golson did last year. What he is going to do is make good decisions with the football and test Oklahoma's secondary early and often. Rees has thrown eight touchdowns to just two interceptions on the season and is averaging 7.88 yards per passing attempt.
"He (Rees) is a very smart player from what I've seen on film. It doesn't seem like he makes a lot of mistakes so we know that we're going to have to be on point every play and we're going to have to be consistent with our play." - Cornerback Aaron Colvin
When he looks down field, Rees likes to get the ball to TJ Jones and DaVaris Daniels. Jones' 21 receptions are just one more than Daniels and the are averaging 14.5 and 15.3 yards per catch respectively. The duo has also combined for six receiving touchdowns on the year.
The Notre Dame rushing attack hasn't gotten off to the same start as their passing game has. At 113.3 yards per game, the Irish have the nation's 100th ranked rushing attack. George Atkinson III leads the team with an average of 5.0 yards per carry and he's one of three backs to carry the ball more than 20 times this season. Cam McDaniel leads the way with 45 carries and an average of 3.7 yards per carry. As a team Notre Dame is averaging 3.7 yards per carry.
On the defensive side of the ball the Irish are giving up an average of 21 points per game. Opposing quarterbacks are completing 54% of their passes against Notre Dame for an average of 228.3 yards per game. The Irish have given up eight touchdowns through the air this season while only nabbing three interceptions.
Against the rush, the Notre Dame defense is much more stout. Opponents are only yielding 3.7 yards per carry and 114.3 yards per game on the ground against the Irish. Notre Dame has only given up two rushing touchdowns this season.
Jarrett Grace leads the team in total tackles with 28 and Carlo Calabrese has a team high four tackles for loss, both are linebackers. Notre Dame has only recorded four quarterback sacks this season and half of them belong to Stephon Tuitt.
The biggest concern for Oklahoma is winning the battle up front. This is an area where the Sooners lost on both sides of the ball in 2012 and are hoping to change their fortunes this season. In order for OU to control the line of scrimmage when they're on offense they'll need to figure out a way to neutralize 6-3/347 defensive tackle Louis Nix. He doesn't make a lot of plays that show up in the stats (14 tackles on the season) but he's a guy who is disruptive and takes on blockers, freeing up other defenders to get to the ball.
"There's no doubt that Nix is the best country. It constantly takes two guys to block him. I saw on Saturday against Michigan State how active he is. He's one of those guys where you can tell how strong and talented he is on the tape. Last year, he was certainly the biggest challenge of my season. I'm excited to block the best in the country. We have to prepare for him and the rest of the defense." - Center Gabe Ikard