But against the run is where the Irish defense has been at its best; none of their seven 2012 opponents so far have scored a rushing touchdown. Notre Dame held off Stanford in overtime by stuffing the Cardinal on third- and fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line.
If the Sooners prove unable to shock-and-awe Notre Dame's defense with big plays, the game could be won and lost in the red zone.
Oklahoma is tied for the NCAA lead in red-zone scoring efficiency, having gotten points on 32 of 33 trips inside opponents' 20-yard lines. Much of that success — and the one failure — has come out the Belldozer package; backup quarterback Blake Bell has rushed for eight touchdowns this season, but also fumbled inside the 5-yard line during Oklahoma's loss to Kansas State.
Notre Dame, meanwhile, is second nationally in red-zone defense; opponents have scored points on a little more than half of their ventures inside the 20.
Although it isn't the same program it once was, Miami is the Notre Dame opponent with the most comparable big-play talent to that of Oklahoma.
After Dorsett's two drops on the opening drive Oct. 6, the only points the Hurricanes could muster all night came on a first-quarter field goal — still the only 3 points the Irish defense has allowed in first quarters all year.
If Stills or any of Oklahoma's other playmakers get open early on Saturday — the way Dorsett did three weeks ago — that could change fast.
“If they can throw the ball over our head, it puts us in a very difficult situation defensively,” Kelly said.