Oklahoma vs. Notre Dame: Top Players to Watch in Saturday's Showdown

Jared PorterCorrespondent IISeptember 26, 2013

NORMAN, OK - OCTOBER 27:   Jalen Saunders
Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

The stage is set for the showdown this Saturday in South Bend between the No. 14 Oklahoma Sooners (3-0) and the No. 22 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (3-1), and with plenty of talent comprising the makeup of both of these teams, there will certainly be a few players to keep an eye on. 

The Sooners look to continue giving the Irish offense trouble with their stout defense, which has only given up nine points per game this season. And on the offensive side of the ball, the Sooners have plenty of playmakers to utilize to put points on the board, including junior quarterback Blake Bell, who is coming off an impressive performance against Tulsa in his first career start. 

On the other hand, the Irish have struggled at times this season with QB issues, but they still have playmakers, like junior wide receiver DaVaris Daniels, who can bust out for an explosive play at any given moment, and not to mention a defense which has given up just 21 points per game and has generated seven turnovers.

These are four players to watch in the high-profile matchup this Saturday between Oklahoma and Notre Dame. 

Note: All stats retrieved from CFBStats.com


Tommy Rees, QB, Notre Dame

The success of the Irish has been greatly dependent on the play of Tommy Rees this season. 

SOUTH BEND, IN - SEPTEMBER 21:  Tommy Rees #11 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish looks for a receiver against the Michigan State Spartans at Notre Dame Stadium on September 21, 2013 in South Bend, Indiana. Notre dame defeated Michigan State 17-13.  (Photo
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

In the games the Irish have come out victorious this season, Rees showed poise and smart decision-making. But in their loss to Michigan, Rees struggled with turnovers and inconsistency, which forced the first blemish on the Irish's record this year. 

With that said, the Irish will need solid play from Rees this Saturday for them to get the victory against the Sooners. The Irish have passed the ball 147 times this season, which is 24 more than their rushing attempts. Assuming this trend will continue, Rees' play could very well be the catalyst to the Irish's success. 


Corey Nelson, LB, Oklahoma

Speaking of Tommy Rees, Corey Nelson will be looking to shut him down this Saturday.

Nelson is one of the Sooners' top playmakers on the defensive side of the ball and currently leads the team with 20 tackles this season.

Nelson has proved in the Sooners' first three games that he can do it all on defense. Whether it's breaking up passes, hurrying the QB or simply tackling, Nelson is capable of performing exceptionally. 

If one of the players to watch this weekend is a quarterback who has been hot and cold the entire season, then the top playmaker on the other side of the ball is certainly someone to keep an eye on.

Like mentioned before, the Irish's success this season has had a lot to do with the performance of Rees, so look for Nelson to do whatever is necessary to disrupt the rhythm of the Irish's QB. 



DaVaris Daniels, WR, Notre Dame

DaVaris Daniels has proven to be the Irish's most lethal offensive weapon this season. He already has 305 yards receiving and leads the team in touchdowns with four. 

The Sooners defense has been exceptional as a whole this season, but considering they have struggled most with pass defense (572 yards against), Daniels may be the key player to utilize for the Irish. 

He's DaVaris Daniels. He's Toot Daddy Fresh. By any name, he's finally a big-play WR for #NotreDame. Trib story: http://t.co/4DE3hHorUy

— Brian Hamilton (@ChiTribHamilton) September 20, 2013

The Sooners defense has not given up a passing touchdown this season, but they also have not faced a wide receiver like Daniels. So look for that streak to end this Saturday. 


Blake Bell, QB, Oklahoma

Despite the stellar performance from Blake Bell in his first career start in Week 3 against Tulsa, there is still much inquiry encompassing the quarterback.

Bell's breakout performance earned him starting QB honors after filling in for injured Trevor Knight in that game, but his start against Notre Dame this weekend will undoubtedly prove more difficult. 

"It really becomes a challenge, because the kid can throw the football." ND head coach Brian Kelly on Blake Bell - http://t.co/me3gRclYVl

— Oklahoma Football (@OU_Football) September 26, 2013

Despite being an important piece to the Sooners offense the past two years, Bell does not have much experience being the primary commander, and that could come into play this weekend as he starts in the biggest game of his career. 

This game will reveal the true colors of the Sooners quarterback. The only question is whether he will shine in the opportunity, or crumble under the pressure. 


So which of these players will prove to be the difference maker in this Saturday's game? Will it even be one of the players mentioned?

It is hard to determine which player's performance this Saturday will spark the most discussion come Sunday, but with both teams having a plethora of capable talent on both sides of the ball, the showdown between Oklahoma and Notre Dame has the makings to be a very entertaining battle. 

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