NORMAN — Oklahoma center Gabe Ikard sat down in front of the television Saturday afternoon and watched Notre Dame-Michigan State.
Ikard watched Fighting Irish defensive tackle Louis Nix III — like Ikard, a preseason All-American according to many outlets — wreak havoc up front.
Not that Ikard needed a reminder about what to expect going head-to-head against Nix when Oklahoma travels to Notre Dame on Saturday.
Ikard has lived it before.
In last season's 30-13 Notre Dame win in Norman, Ikard became closely acquainted with Nix.
Notre Dame dominated the lines on both sides of the ball in that game, and the Sooners figure to need a big improvement to get out of South Bend with a win.
“Last year was certainly the biggest challenge to my season,” Ikard said.
On the first two times that Nix and Ikard went one-on-one, Nix showed how disruptive he could be.
On Oklahoma's second drive of the game, on third down deep in Notre Dame territory, Nix broke off of Ikard's block and got his hand up in time to deflect Landry Jones' pass, which was incomplete.
On the first play of the next drive, Nix drove Ikard back and once again got his hand up, though Jones was able to get the ball past Nix just in time.
The Sooners did plenty of things to help Ikard out, especially using Bronson Irwin, Adam Shead and the other offensive linemen to help on double teams. A few times, the 6-foot-2, 342-pound Nix demanded attention from three blockers.
That opened up room for linebacker Manti Te'o, last season's Heisman Trophy runner-up, to maneuver. It also helped keep Oklahoma's running game in check. The Sooners had just 15 yards rushing.
“He's the best in the country, especially at controlling the line of scrimmage, making plays and being active for his size,” Ikard said of Nix. “I'm very excited to be able to play against someone like him.”
With all of his success during his time at Oklahoma, Ikard still feels he has something to prove.
“This is a very important game for me individually,” Ikard said. “I've got to play well for my team to be successful. We're going to do what we need to do to control the line of scrimmage and be able to block those All-Americans they have.”
But it won't be a solo show.
Notre Dame was in a three-man front for much of last season's game, but used a good amount of four-man as well. This season, the Fighting Irish have shown quite a bit of the four-man look.
Either way, Nix will be a handful, for Ikard and the guards especially.
“We're going to need to mix up our blocking schemes, give them some things they haven't seen in order to get some big creases in the run game,” Ikard said.
OU offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh has seen quite a few big-time defensive lineman, especially in his time at Texas Tech from 2000-06.
He had to plan for Casey Hampton and Shaun Rogers at Texas and for Tommie Harris and Dusty Dvoracek at Oklahoma.
Nix, though, is a different animal.
“They are different type of players than this guy,” Bedenbaugh said. “This guy is massive, you know? He's a big, thick guy. You look at him on film and he covers up the center. You can't even see the center.”
The Sooners don't have anyone — certainly not on the scout team — that can match Nix's size and athleticism.
But they've used sophomore Robert Hollis, the biggest defensive lineman on the team, to simulate Nix in practice.
“He's still not quite as big, but kind of using him to simulate the frame and body size,” Irwin said.
Ikard could've been a teammate of Nix's.
In 2008 — a year before Nix signed with Notre Dame — Ikard was high on the Fighting Irish's wishlist.
Ikard is Catholic. He went to Bishop McGuinness High School.
So when the Fighting Irish from South Bend came calling, that meant something to Ikard, who was recruited primarily as a tight end.
In mid-September of Ikard's senior season at McGuinness, he took an official visit to Notre Dame and saw the Irish beat Michigan 35-17.
Three weeks later, he took his official visit to Norman, watching the Sooners beat Nebraska handily.
The visits were the only official ones Ikard made.
As he was finishing up his Norman visit, Ikard committed to the Sooners.
But he could've seen himself playing for Notre Dame.
“I really enjoyed it up there,” Ikard said. “They were first-class with everything. It probably was my second choice behind Oklahoma.”