No. 14 Oklahoma at No. 22 Notre Dame
3:30 PM, NBC
Line: Oklahoma -2.5
On the way to the BCS title game against Alabama, Notre Dame went to Norman and held the Sooners to only one touchdown in a 30-13 win. This week, the Sooners head into Notre Dame Stadium to avenge that loss.
But it’s a new look for both teams, as some of the impact players from last season for Notre Dame are gone to the NFL (Manti Te’o) or off the team for the year (Everett Golson). Oklahoma is going with former short yardage running quarterback Blake Bell as its starting quarterback and has turned to the run instead of being a passing team like in recent years.
It’s an interesting non-conference matchup, and maybe this year’s game can be more competitive.
For Notre Dame to win: Run the ball. Brian Kelly wants to run the ball more. Last week against Michigan State the Irish ran for 78 yards, its season low. It was the third straight game this season that the Irish had been held under 100 yards. For Notre Dame’s offense to function at its best, it needs to have better balance. The lack of a running game has put more pressure on Tommy Rees, and after last week’s performance (14 of 34, 142 yards), it will be interesting to see if Oklahoma tries to force more throws from Rees.
For Oklahoma to win: Run the ball. Not really redundant. The running games are going to decide this competition. Last year, Oklahoma managed only 15 yards on 24 carries as their ground game was completely shut down. This Sooners team wants to get physical and use their ground game to keep the chains moving.
Key player, Notre Dame: Cam McDaniel, running back. The junior running back leads the Fighting Irish in carries, yards and rushing touchdowns. The yards per carry average is pretty low, and the Irish running game is in need of a spark. If Oklahoma winds up playing some zone because of how much Notre Dame has been throwing then running lanes should open up and maybe the Notre Dame ground game can get on track after three very subpar performances.
Key player, Oklahoma: Blake Bell, quarterback. The Belldozer has started throwing the ball. His running ability and short yardage capability is well documented. But in his first career start two weeks ago against Tulsa, Bell completed 27 of 37 passes for 413 yards and four touchdown passes. Can Bell continue to stay hot against the Notre Dame defense? Or was that start against Tulsa just a mirage? The Oklahoma running game is stout, and if they can get enough of a push up front, they may not need too much from Bell through the air.
Key Stat: 1-9. That is Oklahoma’s record all-time against Notre Dame, with the only win for the Sooners in the series coming in 1956.