SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Oklahoma is 5-1, having outscored opponents in those five wins by 181 points. That's good for an average margin of victory of over five touchdowns. It's also more than double the average margin of victory Notre Dame has compiled through seven games this year.
In those seven wins, the Irish have averaged a margin of victory of 16 points, with that number inflated by blowouts over Navy and Miami. Notre Dame has won four of its seven games by seven or fewer points, which certainly stands in stark contrast to the blowout wins the four teams ahead of the Irish have racked up.
Notre Dame's win over BYU on Saturday was its second by just a field goal. While blowout victories are sexy to pollsters, though, perhaps there's something to be said for the ability to grind out close games. It's a skill Notre Dame didn't possess last year, that's for sure.
"Any successful year for a team, they have games like this where they need to come back and battle back and find a way to win," quarterback Tommy Rees said Saturday, "and I think that separates some teams."
For what it's worth, Oklahoma has lost its only one-possession game in 2012 -- a 24-19 defeat in Norman to a Kansas State team that might end up running the table this year. With Landry Jones as its quarterback, Oklahoma is 6-7 in one-possession games -- although maybe it's no coincidence the Sooners went 5-0 in 2010, which was the only year Jones took OU to a BCS bowl.
Oklahoma frequently makes it easy on themselves, though, jumping out to early leads and cruising the rest of the way. Notre Dame has only blown the doors off two teams this year, and as a result, the Irish have had plenty of close finishes.
"I'd like it to be 30point wins, like everybody else," coach Brian Kelly said Tuesday. "But there's certainly a lot of components when you win close games against big competition, a lot can be gained from that."
But margin of victory isn't counted in any computer-based calculations in the BCS standings. It may count with voters in the coaches poll, but that's just one factor in the BCS. With that in mind, Kelly's mantra to his team sounds more like one coming from a college basketball coach in March.
"If you start thinking about big picture and you start thinking about all those other factors, it takes you away from the job at hand," Kelly explained. "And I think we've done a good job of focusing on each other, focusing on their jobs and I think doing their job has allowed them, regardless of the time in the game, how much was on the clock, winning, losing -- when they focus so much just on their job, they don't even pay attention to that stuff.
"(The players) don't even think about the scoreboard. We let the coaches do that."