A unit-by-unit look at who has the edge in Saturday's game between No. 5 Notre Dame and No. 8 Oklahoma.
Oklahoma senior Landry Jones still has his critics, but they've had a lot less to say over the Sooners' recent three-game winning streak. Jones has stayed poised in the pocket and turned the ball over just once since his poor performance against Kansas State. Blake Bell vs. Notre Dame's defensive front figures to be one of the more intriguing subplots of Saturday's game; he's scored eight TDs on the ground this season out of the Belldozer package, and Notre Dame hasn't allowed any rushing scores all year. For the Irish, starter Everett Golson is back after sitting out last week with an injury. He's thrown for 968 yards, four TDs and three INTs. Backup Tommy Rees has, at times, spelled Golson this season because of health or consistency issues; he's thrown for 335 yards and two TDs.
Oklahoma's Damien Williams has established himself as the clear starter. He's shown big-play skills with long touchdown runs, and the ability to run between the tackles and pick up tough yards. Last year's starter, Dominique Whaley, had no carries last week but remains a viable No. 2 back. Fullback Trey Millard has gotten more touches over the past few weeks and is always a threat with the ball in his hands. For Notre Dame, senior Theo Reddick is the leading rusher with 451 yards and three scores. George Atkinson III and Cierre Wood each have over 300 yards on the ground, too.
Advantage: Notre Dame
Kenny Stills has been the best Sooner wideout and Jones' top target. He's also been versatile, starting the season primarily as a slot receiver, but shifting more to an outside role with the emergence of Sterling Shepard and Jalen Saunders. Penn State transfer Justin Brown has caught two touchdowns and is OU's second-leading receiver. Junior TJ Jones leads Notre Dame receivers with 275 yards and two scores.
The Notre Dame line is much more seasoned and deeper than Oklahoma's, which has played admirably despite losing two senior starters just before the season started. Sooner quarterbacks have been sacked 10 times in six games, while Notre Dame has allowed 13 sacks in seven. Oklahoma averages slightly more yards per game on the ground, too, but those numbers are a bit skewed by Oklahoma's 349 yards on the ground against FCS opponent Florida A&M. There aren't any stat padding teams like that on Notre Dame's more difficult — so far — slate.
Advantage: Notre Dame
The Sooners get senior Stacy McGee back from suspension this week to add more depth to the defensive tackle spots, where Jamarkus McFarland, Casey Walker and David King have played well. R.J. Washington and Chuka Ndulue have been good at the end spots, with King playing there some, too. But Notre Dame's defensive line, with end Stephon Tuitt and his 8.5 sacks already, and big tackle Louis Nix III, gets the edge here.