The Oklahoma Sooners were one of the biggest hurdles the Notre Dame Fighting Irish had to get over in last year's undefeated regular season, which ended with the Irish losing to Alabama in the BCS National Championship.
History is on the Sooners' side to say the least, per ESPN's College GameDay:
From ’09-11, #OU lost 8 games to teams they had the opportunity to play the following season. The Sooners won all 8 subsequent matchups.— College GameDay (@CollegeGameDay) September 27, 2013
A letdown for Notre Dame had to be expected this season after losing linebacker and defensive leader Manti Te'o to the NFL and seeing starting quarterback Everett Golson suspended for the current campaign.
The AP No. 22 Irish have held up well for the most part, gutting out a road victory over arch-rival Purdue just a week after falling to Michigan in the Big House. That was followed by a hard-fought, physical win over Michigan State and its vaunted defense.
Stoops made a surprising decision by beginning the 2013 campaign with Trevor Knight as the starter at quarterback over presumed Landry Jones successor Blake Bell.
After Knight struggled throwing the ball in his first two starts, Bell was inserted into the lineup.
Will Oklahoma cover the spread as four-point favorites (h/t Bovada)?
Bell is a dual-threat power runner who was inserted in short-yardage and goal-line situations in his first two seasons at Oklahoma, accumulating an incredible 24 rushing touchdowns in that span.
But it's clear that Bell can spin the pigskin, too.
Notre Dame has a formidable defensive front in nose tackle Louis Nix III and Stephon Tuitt, both likely future NFL players. They should wreak havoc on Oklahoma and help generate a viable pass rush.
The only problem is that Bell is, well, 252 pounds and has the power and agility to escape a collapsing pocket. It's a far more formidable opponent and Bell's first start on the road, but he has a running game to back him up.
Seniors Brennan Clay and Damien Williams have combined for 423 yards on the ground, while classmate Roy Finch has kicked in 110 yards of his own on just 15 carries.
Also working in the Sooners' favor is the benefit of a bye week since Bell's dazzling debut. They also sport a defense that yields a mere nine points per game—fifth in the nation.
This should be a hard-fought battle, with the Irish attempting to set the tone against a reputedly finesse-oriented team in Oklahoma, but the Sooners will prevail in their quest for vengeance.
Prediction: Oklahoma 27, Notre Dame 20