Key Match-Ups As The Sooners Travel To South Bend

Wesley Hitt

A clash of tradition will be on display this Saturday as two of the most storied programs, the Oklahoma Sooners and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish take to the gridiron.

There is no doubt that the Oklahoma Sooners have a tough test staring down the barrel. To travel for the first time with a group of youngsters to play a ranked opponent, more specifically the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, has its challenges. Here are the key match-ups to watch on the field.

Key Match-Ups

ND Defensive Line vs OU Offensive Line

Merv Johnson joined The Franchise on Tuesday to discuss the upcoming weekend from a coach's perspective. Without batting an eye, a likely claim was rolled out that caught the attention of all listeners...in three years, six of Notre Dame's front seven will be playing in the NFL.

Gabe Ikard followed with:

I've got to play well for my team to be successful. We're going to do what we need to do to control the line of scrimmage and be able to block those All-Americans they have. - Gabe Ikard

No questions asked, the defensive front seven is a strong suit for the Irish.

Looking back through the history of this season though, the Michigan Wolverines may have laid the blue print for how to beat Notre Dame. While it is a tall task, Michigan consistently ran the ball against this stout defensive front seven racking up 39 total attempts.

The Sooners will need to keep the same formula they have so far throughout this season...more rushing attempts than passing attempts. Of course, you won't hear me complain if the Fighting Irish give up the vertical plays and OU moves to a more pass oriented game. With that said, clock management and moving the ball are going to be crucial. The offensive line will need to open up running lanes for these talented running backs but also keep the quarterback upright.

Tommy Rees vs Young Secondary

Tommy Rees is a proven quarterback on this Notre Dame roster regardless of the rocky past. After losing the projected starter in Everett Golson, the Fighting Irish fell back on Rees who had 16 games of starting experience under his belt. Not many teams have this sort of luxury.

This season, Rees has passed for 1111 yards along with 8 touchdowns to 2 interceptions. He will undoubtedly be the most experienced quarterback on the field come Saturday. With a strong arm and the likes of TJ Jones and DeVaris Daniels to throw to, this is a ND offense ready to test the young and inexperienced secondary of Oklahoma. However, one thing that Rees struggles with is accuracy. As often pointed out here at CCM, the offensive play calling relied heavily upon the heave and run, essentially setting jump ball after jump ball. Whether that is play calling or the read that the quarterback is making is an unknown.

With a lackluster rushing attack, expect Brian Kelly to continue to lean upon the arm of Tommy Rees.

Up to this point of the season, the Sooner secondary has exceeded expectations. But, let's be frank...much of their success has come from the fact that the linebackers have played well. The defensive coaching staff has begun to use the LBs in blitz packages to utilize the speed of the unit. Any pressure on a quarterback significantly helps out the secondary. Gabe Lynn has been a standout performer after a shaky junior year. He, as well as Aaron Colvin, will need to be in peak form if Oklahoma wants to escape with a win.

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