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Game Scout: Oklahoma at Notre Dame

The SportsXchange

KICKOFF: Saturday, 3:30 p.m. ET

GAME DATE: 9/28/13

SITE: Notre Dame Stadium, South Bend, Ind.

TV: NBC

SERIES: Notre Dame leads the series 8-1. Oklahoma's only win came in South Bend in 1956 under coach Bud Wilkinson.

AP RANKINGS: Oklahoma, No. 14; Notre Dame, No. 22

KEYS TO THE GAME

No one at Oklahoma is publicly stating it, but revenge is likely on the minds of the 14th-ranked Sooners as they head into a matchup of ranked teams on Saturday in South Bend, Ind.

Fifth-ranked Notre Dame outscored eighth-ranked Oklahoma 20-7 in the fourth quarter last season to defeat the Sooners in Norman. The Fighting Irish came into the game -- and left it -- undefeated on their way to the national championship game against Alabama. Oklahoma also had national title aspirations, but those were dashed in that ill-fated fourth quarter.

"I thought a year ago, those (turnovers and the inability of stopping drives on third down) are big deals in the fourth quarter," Sooners coach Bob Stoops said. "Last year, they made all the plays down the stretch in the last six minutes of the game. That's what changed the game. It was a 13-13 game with six minutes to go and they make all the plays at the end."

Stoops and his staff are not focusing on what happened last year, instead focusing on the fact that No. 22 Notre Dame will probably try the same approach.

"Their schemes are all the same," he said. "They've got good athletes and are well disciplined in everything they do. So I see them very similar as they were a year ago."

The biggest difference will be at quarterback, where Tommy Rees has taken over for Everett Golson. Rees is passing for 280 yards per game, with his deep threats being TJ Jones (21 catches, 304 yards, 2 TD) and DaVaris Daniels (20 catches, 305 yards, 4 TD).

If Oklahoma wins, it will only be the second time the Sooners have defeated the Irish. If you're looking for an omen, the other time was in 1956, when OU downed ND in South Bend 40-0 on the way to the national championship.

Notre Dame also offers plenty of challenges.

Rees has completed 60.7 percent of his passes for 969 yards, seven touchdowns and only two interceptions.

The running game remains a work in progress with Amir Carlisle (148 yards) and Cam McDaniel (125 yards) leading the way.

Notre Dame's defense has allowed an average of 372 yards per game, which is in the middle of the pack nationally at No. 56. But Irish defenders say the unit continues to improve.

"For me the biggest progress is feeling comfortable out there," junior ILB Jarrett Grace said. "I do think that progress is showing itself, but I think it has a ways to go also."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Sooners

--QB Blake Bell, fresh off a record-setting starting debut, will be out to show that his game against Tulsa was no fluke. Bell went 27 of 37 for 413 yards (11.11 yards per attempt) with four touchdowns, no interceptions and a 202.4 passer rating. Those numbers are the best ever for an Oklahoma quarterback in his first start.

--OL Gabe Ikard says controlling the line of scrimmage will be critical if the Sooners are to avenge last year's loss. "The most important thing from last year was who controlled the line of scrimmage and that was obviously them," he said. "We didn't run the ball well at all. They started to wear us out. That's our focus now. Establishing and controlling the line of scrimmage."

--DB Gabe Lynn and his mates in the secondary will have to be on their game with Rees throwing the ball around the field. In last year's 30-13 victory, Notre Dame only threw for 188 yards on 14-of-27 passing. But Rees has completed passes to 12 different receivers in his first four games.

Fighting Irish

--QB Tommy Rees had his fourth straight game with at least one touchdown pass in last week's 17-13 win over Michigan State. The second-quarter TD pass to TJ Jones was his eighth of the season.

--WR TJ Jones is tied for 10th on the school's career touchdown receptions list with 12, shared with Bobby Brown (1996-99) and Tim Brown (1984-87). He has had receptions in 31 consecutive games dating to the 2010 Sun Bowl on Dec. 31, 2010, against Miami. Jones has 110 receptions for 1,339 yards during that span.

--WR Corey Robinson had a career-first multi-reception game against Michigan State. The Irish freshman caught three passes for 54 yards.

--DL Stephon Tuitt sacked Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook in the fourth quarter for his second of the game and 16th of his career. He's now just a half sack behind Bert Berry (1993-96) for ninth on Notre Dame's career list.
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