09/28/2013 10:16 AM
No. 14 Oklahoma Sooners at No. 22 Notre Dame Fighting Irish
Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET
Last season's matchup between these teams saw undefeated No. 5 Notre Dame invade Norman, Okla., for the first time in 40-plus years, and the game was a lot closer than the 30-13 final score indicated. With the game tied at 13 midway through the fourth quarter, Irish quarterback Everett Golson completed a key 50-yard pass as Notre Dame scored the game's final 17 points.
This season, the Sooners come in off a bye after a 3-0 start. No one would have thought in the preseason that the Sooner defense would be better statistically than Notre Dame's, but it has shown great improvement, allowing just nine points per game. On the other side, the offense finally kicked into gear two weeks ago thanks to quarterback Blake Bell, who, in his first start of the season, threw for 413 yards and four touchdowns. The ground game has also been a pleasant surprise, as the Sooners are averaging 272 yards per game, their highest number since the Barry Switzer era.
The Irish come in 3-1 after last week's somewhat controversial 17-13 win over Michigan State, in which they were aided by several pass interference penalties on the Spartans. Quarterback Tommy Rees came into the game No. 1 in the NCAA in pass yards per game against Football Bowl Subdivision opponents but managed just 142 yards against the NCAA's No. 1 total defense.
Head coach Brian Kelly and the Irish have won their past seven games decided by seven points or less, and Oklahoma is 1-9 in this series. However, I think this is the type of game in which the Irish will miss Golson's mobility, which will allow the Sooners to get win No. 2 in the series.
Pick: Oklahoma 24, Notre Dame 23