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Getting To Know The Notre Dame Fighting Irish

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Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o (5) has been a dominant force for the Fighting Irish defense this season. (AP Photo) Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o (5) has been a dominant force for the Fighting Irish defense this season. (AP Photo)
NORMAN, Oklahoma -

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish, ranked No. 5 in the latest BCS standings come to Norman Saturday in one of the most highly anticipated games in recent memory for the Oklahoma Sooners.

The Irish come to Norman undefeated, but definitely tested, having defeated Michigan, Michigan State, and Stanford, in addition to thumping Miami 41-3 two weeks ago.

The Irish are an interesting team, led by a fierce defense that ranks No. 6 in total defense and has forced 17 turnovers. The Irish are also ranked No. 2 in scoring defense behind Alabama, giving up just a measly 9.43 points per game. More impressive is the fact opponents have scored just six touchdowns in seven games against the Irish.

Senior linebacker Manti Te'o is the leader for the Irish on defense. He leads the Irish with 69 total tackles, and has intercepted four passes and recovered two fumbles. In the secondary, junior cornerback Bennett Jackson has also intercepted four passes.

However, the strength of the Notre Dame defense has been their defensive line, which has been able to consistently pressure the quarterback week in and week out. Notre Dame has piled up 19 sacks, with 15 of them coming from defensive linemen. Defensive end Stephon Tuitt has eight sacks by himself, and also returned a fumble 77 yards for a touchdown against Navy in the season opener.

Offensively, it's a different story for Notre Dame, and not a pretty one at that. The Irish rank just 74th in the country in total offense, averaging 194 yards both on the ground and through the air. Notre Dame is also ranked just 76th in scoring offense, averaging 25.86 points per game. Notre Dame has scored more than 20 points just twice, against Navy and Miami, easily the two worst defenses the Irish have faced all season.

The Irish have been plagued by inconsistent quarterback play from sophomore Everett Golson, who was named the starter at the beginning of the season over incumbent starter Tommy Rees. Golson is completing just 58.5 percent of his passes for 968 yards, four touchdowns, and three interceptions. Head coach Brian Kelly indicated Golson will start against OU Saturday despite being out with a concussion against BYU. Rees started against BYU, and has also seen spot duty late in games this season for the Irish, tossing two touchdown passes and 335 yards on 24-for-41 passes.

The Irish's top target is tight end Tyler Eifert, who has caught 19 passes for 319 yards and three touchdowns. Eifert is a big target at 6'6, 251 pounds, and has great speed for a man his size. TJ Jones is the receptions leader amongst the wide receivers with 21 catches for 275 yards and two touchdowns.

The running game is where the Irish have made their living on offense this season, boasting a potent three-man attack that has combined to rush for 1,145 yards and nine touchdowns so far this season. Theo Riddick is the leading rusher, with 451 yards, Cierre Wood is next with 393, and George Atkinson III is the third back with 301 yards. However, Atkinson is averaging a huge 8.1 yards per carry this season, while Wood averages six yards per carry.

Top to bottom, Notre Dame is a great team, and has shown it can beat quality opposition. However, the Irish haven't faced an offense that has the firepower, or balance the Sooners possess. The Irish have faced several defenses that are on par with or better than the defense they'll be facing Saturday in Norman. No matter what way you look at it, Saturday's matchup between two legendary programs should be one for the ages.

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