The Notre Dame Fighting Irish (7-0) will put their undefeated record on the line Saturday night in Norman when they visit Big 12 powerhouse Oklahoma (5-1) in the weekend's marquee college football matchup.
Bob Stoops' Sooners have won three in a row since falling to Kansas State back in September. Meanwhile, Brian Kelly's Irish have catapulted all the way to No. 5 in the BCS standings thanks to an impressive 7-0 start to the year.
No. 8 Oklahoma can still wipe out all the hard work the Irish have done, though, with a win at home this Saturday night.
Here we get you set with everything you need to know for Week 9's prime-time clash between Notre Dame and Oklahoma.
Where: Oklahoma Memorial Stadium, Norman, Okla.
When: Saturday, October 27 at 8:00 p.m. ET
Listen: WNSN 101.5 FM (South Bend), KRXO 107.7 FM (Oklahoma City)
Live Streaming: SoonerSports.com
Betting Line: Oklahoma (-10.5), according to Covers.com.
Notre Dame has defeated three Top 25 teams this season, but only one on the road and none ranked higher than 10th. The Irish have signature wins over Michigan State, Michigan and Stanford, but have yet to play any Big 12 opposition until now.
The key storyline surrounding Saturday night's game is whether Notre Dame is for real. Its matchup with the Sooners is its biggest test so far this fall, and will provide answers to a lot of questions.
Who May Not Play for Notre Dame
*According to USA Today
QB Everett Golson (Concussion), probable for Saturday
K Nick Tausch (Groin), questionable for Saturday
DE Chase Hounshell (Shoulder), questionable for Saturday
S Jamoris Slaughter (Achilles), out for season
S Austin Collinsworth (Shoulder), out for season
CB Lo Wood (Achilles), out for season
TE Alex Welch (Knee), out for season
Who May Not Play for Oklahoma
*According to USA Today
DE Chaz Nelson (Knee), out indefinitely
OL Nila Kasitati (Knee), out for season
OL Tyler Evans (Knee), out for season
FB Marshall Musil (Knee), out for season
WR Jaz Reynolds (Suspension), out for season
DB Trey Franks (Suspension), out for season
DB Quentin Hayes (Suspension), out for season
Obviously, Saturday night's showdown in Norman carries massive BCS implications. Both teams are currently positioned in the Top 10 coming into the weekend.
An Oklahoma loss would drop the Sooners significantly in the BCS standings, while the Irish have more slack having not lost a game yet. Either way, this weekend's loser is likely out of the BCS National Championship race.
What They're Saying
Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly has nothing but praise for Oklahoma's offense coming into this weekend's epic matchup (via NewsOK.com's Stephanie Kuzydym):
It’s not just Landry Jones. If it’s just Landry Jones they aren’t where they are. They run equally as well. (Oklahoma has) one of the most balanced offense in the country. They can play physical and throw the ball. Landry Jones has those weapons that allow him to be so physical.
The Sooners' scoring offense ranks fifth in the nation this season and is averaging close to 45 points per game.
On the other side, Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops is well aware of what Notre Dame does best (via SoonerSports.com), saying, "They're physical and tough. The power running game is a big part of what they do so we've got to be able to take off blocks and be in the right space."
Stoops' men will need to shut down the Irish's trio of running backs on Saturday in order to keep Notre Dame's offense off the field.
Notre Dame Player to Watch
Senior linebacker Manti Te'o is the heart and soul of Notre Dame's dominant defensive front this season. The 6'2", 255-pound stud has anchored the Irish's second-ranked scoring defense in all seven games this fall.
Te'o has recorded at least six tackles in every game this year, and has four interceptions on the season. He has made at least 10 tackles in each of the past three games for Notre Dame.
Look for No. 5 to cause problems for Oklahoma's high-powered offense on Saturday.
Oklahoma Player to Watch
Oklahoma's backup quarterback Blake Bell has made a tremendous impact for the Sooners over the past few games as a Tim Tebow-like runner. Bob Stoops uses the 6'6" sophomore every now and then to incredible success.
Bell has eight rushing touchdowns in the last four games, four of which came against Texas. Through six games, he has carried the ball just 31 total times. Therefore, Bell scores more than 25 percent of the time he's inserted as a runner.
Sooners fans have to like those odds and will be cheering for Bell each and every time he runs out onto the field this weekend.
Saturday night's game will be decided by how well Notre Dame's front seven matches up with Oklahoma at the line of scrimmage. If Te'o and company can get to Landry Jones and make him uncomfortable early on, I like the Irish's chances on the road.
Otherwise, it could be a long night for Brian Kelly's team. The Sooners rank 25th in the nation in passing offense (288.5 passing yards per game) and are more than capable of exploiting Notre Dame's somewhat suspect secondary.
On the Hot Seat
With Oklahoma already having lost at home this season to a lower-ranked team, the pressure is on for head coach Bob Stoops. The Sooners are in danger of not winning the Big 12 for the second straight year under Stoops and haven't finished undefeated since 2000.
Oklahoma's most recent national championship also came over a decade ago in Stoops' second season back in 2000. If Stoops' squad drops a second home game before November, he will feel his seat in Norman heating up.
The oddsmakers love Oklahoma at home this weekend, and I agree. The Sooners' offense is just too explosive to be kept under wraps for four quarters. Sure, Notre Dame boasts one of the nation's top scoring defenses, but it will on the road this weekend against the toughest all-around competition it has faced all year long.
The Fighting Irish will keep it close, but in the end Oklahoma's superior offense will pull away and put a dagger through the heart of Notre Dame's perfect season hopes.
Oklahoma 27, Notre Dame 17
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