NORMAN — Oklahoma travels to Notre Dame on Sept. 28 for a nationally televised game with big-time implications for both squads.
The Sooners lost 30-13 at home last year to the Irish, who went on to finish 12-1 with a national-title game appearance.
Continuing my blog series with a beat writer from each of OU’s 2013 opponents, Eric Hansen from the South Bend Tribune was kind enough to answer a few questions about Notre Dame.
You can follow Eric on Twitter @hansenNDInsider.
1. Notre Dame must obviously be disappointed to lose Everett Golson, but if any team could sustain such a loss, it seems like it would be the Irish. How do the expectations for 2013 change with Tommy Rees under center, or do they?
They do change, perhaps unfairly, even though Tommy has a 14-4 record in 18 career starts. He has to overcome turnovers. He has 35 career TD passes, but 30 career turnovers. When ND switched from Rees to Everett Golson, the Irish went from 110th nationally in turnovers lost in 2011 to 13th nationally with Golson in 2012. Rees’ lack of mobility and inconsistency with the deep ball have been exposed by elite defenses. His pass-efficiency rating has been relatively flat since his freshman season, coaxing the question whether there is a higher ceiling for him. He certainly has plenty of assets, not the least of which is mental toughness and respect of his teammates. Perhaps some of these questions will be answered in August.
2. The Irish defense loses a great player in Manti Te’o, but also brings back lots of talent. What are the expectations for Notre Dame’s defense entering 2013?
There’s a belief this defense can be better, because the secondary is significantly stronger and deeper. Some feel ND may have the best starting defensive line in the nation, and Jarrett Grace projects as an able fit at middle linebacker. He’ll be flanked by some outstanding outside linebackers. The biggest “if” is defensive line depth. Heading into August, there’s a cliff between the starters and the next wave. The Irish can’t afford an injury there.
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