PROVE IT – WEEK 9
Notre Dame vs Oklahoma, Saturday, 8pm
PROVE IT COACH: Brian Kelly
Notre Dame is having the season that Brian Kelly must have envisioned when he took over the program just two years ago. Going into the showdown with Oklahoma, the Irish are undefeated and boast one of the stronger defenses in the nation. They have also gotten some pretty strong quarterback play up until this point.
Everett Golson has been their man for the better part of the season, with Tommy Rees playing well during spot duty. Golson has not blown anyone away statistically, but he is a big, strong athlete that can extend plays and turn it up field if he needs to escape the pocket. He has only thrown four touchdowns this season, but he gets a lot of help from a strong running back tandem in Theo Riddick and Cierre Wood. Kelly obviously feels comfortable with both Golson and Rees at quarterback. He has often gone with the athleticism of Golson over the experience of Rees. So far it has worked out for Notre Dame. They have been winning despite a bit of shuffling under center. Certainly, the preference would be to keep one guy consistently taking snaps, but Kelly has to feel good knowing that two guys can do the job.
The defense is second in the country in points allowed at a measly 9.4. That is championship caliber. They are ball hawks in the secondary and fierce tacklers as well. Up until this point, the defense has been the calling card for this team. It also helps out a coach for a defense to play well when his quarterback is uncertain. The defense has made the transition between both quarterbacks easier to manage. This week will be a tough test for them. They play a strong Oklahoma team with a Heisman candidate in quarterback Landry Jones. The Sooners score over 44 points per game. The Oklahoma secondary is tops in the Big 12. This game is in Norman. There will be a lot working against the Irish on Saturday.
Brian Kelly must be commended for where he has brought this program in his short tenure. Now he seems to have it right where it needs to be. One good season is one thing. Sustainability will be another. Will he be able to keep this team rolling all season long? Notre Dame notoriously plays pretty difficult schedules. This will definitely be their most difficult game to date. Kelly is going up against Bob Stoops, who has a top-tier resume of his own. Between national titles and multiple Big 12 championships, Stoops is generally considered one of the best coaches in the country. He has made his mark on college football. For Kelly to be thrust into that elite category, outdueling a coach of Stoops’ pedigree would do wonders. He has pushed all the right buttons and found the right combination of guys to help lead his team onto the field each week. In only their second true road test of the season, the Irish will see how much grit and resiliency they have. This is Kelly’s time to shine on the biggest of stages.
Michigan at Nebraska, Saturday, 8pm
PROVE IT DIVISION LEADER: Who will be ahead in the division standings after this game?
This game in Lincoln on Saturday will determine the leader of the Legends division in the Big Ten. Nebraska and Michigan have had pretty good seasons so far, but they have both flown a little bit under the radar because they are not undefeated or ranked in the top 10. Obviously this game has a lot of implications moving forward. This is Michigan’s last true road block until their showdown with Ohio State in late November. Nebraska must get through the other Big Ten team from Michigan next weekend and then their schedule loosens up. Anything can happen late in the year, but Saturday seems to have that final game feel to it.
This is a battle of running games. Nebraska runs for 279 yards per game. Michigan runs for 222. Both have quarterbacks that are a huge part of their rushing numbers. Denard Robinson is more of the star, but Taylor Martinez has 403 rushing yards himself. Between Martinez, Ameer Abdullah, and Rex Burkhead, the Cornhuskers have a three-headed rushing attack. They will have to break through a Michigan defense that is a lot stronger than Nebraska’s. The Wolverines allow quite a few rushing yards per game, which works in Nebraska’s favor, but their backend is strong. If they can key the run, then they might be able to shut down Nebraska’s offense completely. The Huskers are 12th in the nation in scoring so it will not be easy. Conversely, Nebraska has a defense that does not keep teams out of the end zone. With Michigan’s offense producing 400 yards per game, that does not bode well for Bo Pelini’s squad. Nebraska has the advantage of playing this one at home. In a game that could go either way – one that is this important for both participants – home field may mean everything.