Oklahoma Sooners: Jamoris Slaughter

Sooners schedule preview: Notre Dame 

July, 24, 2012
7/24/12
3:00
PM ET
October 27, 2012: vs. Notre Dame
2011 record: 8-5 | OU’s all-time against Notre Dame: 1-8

Top returners: QB Tommy Rees, Cierre Wood, TE Tyler Eifert, OG Chris Watt, OT Zack Martin, C Braxston Cave, DT Louis Nix, DE Kapron Lewis-Moore, LB Dan Fox, LB Manti Te’o, LB Prince Shembo, S Zeke Motta

Key losses: RB Jonas Gray, WR Michael Floyd, OG Trevor Robinson, K David Ruffer, DE Ethan Johnson, OLB Darius Fleming, CB Robert Blanton, CB Gary Gray, S Harrison Smith

2011 statistical leaders (*returners)
Rushing: Cierre Wood* (1,102 yards)
Passing: Tommy Rees* (2,871 yards)
Receiving: Michael Floyd (1,147 yards)
Tackles: Manti Te’o* (128)
Sacks: Aaron Lynch (5.5)
Interceptions: Robert Blanton, Gary Gray (2)

Three things to watch:

1. Who will be quarterback of the Irish by Oct. 27? Andrew Hendrix seems to be the favorite, but Everett Golson had the best spring game. Then there’s Tommy Rees, who quarterbacked the Irish last season, though struggled and was later arrested in the spring. Notre Dame has weapons offensively, but if the QB position remains a mess, it won’t matter.

2. The Irish should be solid up front defensively, but they are breaking in two new cornerbacks, and have no returning player with more than just one interception. Factor in that third safety Austin Collinsworth is probably out for the season with a shoulder injury, and Notre Dame’s defensive backfield is thin.

3. Notre Dame plays one of the toughest schedules year in, year out, so the Irish won’t be intimidated by Owen Field. For whatever reason, Notre Dame has also had OU’s number over the years, compiling an 8-1 record in the series. The Irish were the last team to beat OU before its 47-game winning streak in the ‘50s, then ended the streak in Norman. Notre Dame also handed Bob Stoops his first loss as OU’s coach. The Sooners have demons to eradicate, and if history is any suggestion, it might not be easy.
For the first time in 46 years, Notre Dame is coming to Oklahoma. The two proud programs will meet for the 10th time in Norman on Oct. 27. Even though the game is still months away, SoonerNation checked in with ESPN.com Notre Dame blogger Matt Fortuna to talk about what figures to be one of OU’s biggest non-conference home games of the Bob Stoops era.

Jake Trotter: Notre Dame plays so many high-profile games. So how big is this game in Norman for the Irish and their fans?

Matt Fortuna: Jake, at this stage of the summer I would say this one is right up at the top with the annual USC game. (Irish fans would like nothing more than to knock a potentially undefeated Trojans team out of the title race in the regular-season finale.) Notre Dame and Oklahoma are two of the 10 winningest programs in college football history. Great traditions, great uniforms and great history between each other. The fact they haven't played each other in so long adds to the intrigue, but the history shouldn't be lost. Those far older than us will recall that the Irish snapped the Sooners' 57-game winning streak in 1957, a streak that began following another loss to Notre Dame, in the 1953 opener. Oklahoma has never beaten Notre Dame at home, but the Sooners' 40-0 win in 1956 marks the biggest home defeat in Irish history.

[+] EnlargeNotre Dame head coach Brian Kelly
AP Photo/Bill FundaroBrian Kelly is 16-10 in two seasons coaching Notre Dame.
Trotter: Other than annual tilts with rivals USC and Michigan, OU will be Notre Dame's biggest road game since when?

Fortuna: I was in the stands for it, but the first one that comes to mind would be the 2007 game at Penn State. Notre Dame crushed its former independent rival a year earlier in South Bend, the schools' first meeting since Penn State joined the Big Ten. The 2007 game, following the Irish's blowout loss to Georgia Tech a week earlier, had a lot riding on it at the time. Jimmy Clausen, then in just his second week of college football, was making his first career start, and the now-infamous Beaver Stadium "White House" made its debut across the entire stadium. The game itself? A bit of a snoozer, so here's hoping the Irish's trip to Norman lives up to the hype.

Trotter: Who will be quarterbacking the Irish on Oct. 27?

Fortuna: Thanks for easing into this one. I have marked Andrew Hendrix as the starter since Brian Kelly said it would be an open competition at the beginning of the spring, but Everett Golson's strong spring game -- coupled with the other three's turnovers -- makes me think more and more that he could be the guy come Week 1. Tommy Rees' experience gives him a shot, but his lack of mobility, last year's turnovers and this spring's arrest will probably make it an uphill battle for him.

Trotter: What has to happen for Notre Dame to have a chance of knocking off the Sooners?

Fortuna: As always, it comes down to limiting the mistakes on the offensive end. And, once again, that comes back to quarterback play. The Irish probably should have won 10 or 11 games last season but shot themselves in the foot so often by giving the ball away. If they can limit the turnovers and get some of their running backs and slot receivers into open space, they will give themselves a chance at pulling the upset. (They also better hope Charlie Weis doesn't share any secrets with the Sooners during their matchup the preceding week.)

Trotter: Where can OU most exploit Notre Dame?

Fortuna: Simply, the secondary. Jamoris Slaughter and Zeke Motta are good safeties, but Notre Dame is breaking in two cornerbacks with no starting experience this season. Could Slaughter play some emergency corner? Sure, but that's less likely now that Austin Collinsworth, the Irish's third safety, is probably out for the year with a shoulder injury. If Notre Dame's talented front seven can't generate enough pressure on Landry Jones, and if Jones plays the way we all think he is capable of playing, that could spell trouble for the Irish.

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