Saturday, we will see two of the most historic and tradition rich programs on the same field together for the second straight season. That match-up will be the No. 14 Oklahoma Sooners at No. 22 Notre Dame Fighting Irish. These two teams faced off last year in Norman with an unlikely outcome taking place. The Irish went into Oklahoma and beat them 30-13 on their way to a perfect regular season.
This year's game will be entirely different with new starting quarterbacks for each team and key defensive pieces gone from last season. The most notable difference is Oklahoma's all-time leading wins leader at quarterback Landry Jones no longer leading the way.
The Sooners named red shirt freshman Trevor Knight the starting quarterback to start the season to replace Jones. This moved seemed to be right until Knight went down with an injury. This has handed the responsibilities over to Blake Bell who was expected to be named the starter before the season.
Bell is now the quarterback for the Sooners as Knight recovers from an injury he sustained a few weeks back. Bell has proven he can not only run, but pass pretty well when needed. The "Belldozer," as he is called, has the reputation of a down hill bruiser that will run you over.
His play making and passing ability was the huge question, but proved many doubters wrong in their week three game against Tulsa. I understand the opposition was Tulsa, but it was a nice warm up game before he has to travel to South Bend to face the Irish.
The Irish defense, which was dominant in the regular season last year, has not been quit the same so far in 2013. The Irish defense held the explosive Oklahoma offense last year to only 13 points. The Sooners were held to only 15 yards rushing in last year's meeting. The Sooners will have to be able to run the ball better this year if they hope to win in South Bend.
In the Bob Stoops era, it has been very rare that a team goes into Norman and beats down Oklahoma like the Irish did last year. It wasn't so much a shock that Notre Dame won, but just in the fashion they did so. I believe this will put revenge on the mind of the Sooners as they look to go into South Bend to serve their share of payback come Saturday.
The Sooners' defense has seemed to be much improved from last year and this could spell trouble for an offensive challenged Notre Dame team. The Irish, with starting quarterback Tommy Rees, have shown their share of struggles so far this year. The highlight of their season offensively was scoring 30 points on Michigan in the Big House in week two. Rees doesn't bring the scrambling and raw play making ability that Everett Golson brought last year. This, along with an improved Sooner defense, could bring lots of difficulties for the Fighting Irish offense.
I believe the key match-up in the game come Saturday will be the Notre Dame defense vs. the Oklahoma offense. The key will be how effective can Bell and the running game be against the Irish defense in South Bend. The passing game will have to be set up by the running game of the Sooners before they can effectively attack the Irish defense. I don't believe this Irish defense is as good as it was last year and this game may show that.
I feel the Sooners will go in looking for revenge on the Irish and win on their home field just as the Irish did in Oklahoma last year. The Irish will have the advantage of the home crowd, but as last year showed with these two teams that doesn't seem to be that big of a factor. I see the Sooners winning this one is a close; competitive game and keeping their perfect record in tact.
My final score prediction is the Oklahoma Sooners 24 and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish 17. The Sooners will run the ball much better in this year's game and that will help set up Bell on some deep passes. The Sooners will show their power on defense, just as Notre Dame did last year, and stop the Irish on offense by putting pressure on Rees. The Sooners will keep their national title hopes alive, as the Irish suffer their second loss before the month of September ends.