SOUTH BEND, Ind. — A unit-by-unit look at who has the edge in Saturday's game between No. 12 Oklahoma and No. 22 Notre Dame.
Oklahoma junior Blake Bell didn't win the starting job in the preseason, but got his opportunity two weeks ago against Tulsa and was outstanding, throwing for 413 yards and four touchdowns. Bell is also mobile, making him a threat on the ground as well as through the air. Notre Dame's Tommy Rees regained the starting position after last year's starter, Everett Golson, was suspended for the season. Rees isn't nearly as mobile as Golson was, and has been a little shaky through the Irish's first four games.
Senior Brennan Clay has established himself as the Sooners' clear No. 1 running back, but Damien Williams, Roy Finch and even true freshman Keith Ford will continue to get their touches. Notre Dame has also split carries between running backs, with juniors Cam McDaniel, Amir Carlisle and George Atkinson III sharing the load. Oklahoma's backs are more experienced, though, so the Sooners get the edge.
Oklahoma's receivers struggled mightily through the first two games. Those struggles — combined with quarterback Trevor Knight's inconsistency — contributed to the Sooners' overall poor early season performance in the passing game. But with Bell at quarterback against Tulsa, the Sooner receivers shined. Sophomore Sterling Shepard led the bunch with eight receptions, 123 yards and two touchdowns, but senior Jaz Reynolds also went over 100 yards receiving and Jalen Saunders caught a touchdown. Notre Dame's top receivers so far have been Davaris Daniels (20 receptions, 305 yards and four touchdowns) and T.J. Jones (21 receptions, 304 yards and two touchdowns).
Oklahoma returned lots of experience from last year's offensive line, and the unit has played really well through three games under new position coach Bill Bedenbaugh. The Sooners are rushing for 271.7 yards per game, good for 16th in the country. Notre Dame's line returned some good experience, too, but the Irish haven't been as successful running the ball, averaging just 114.2 yards per game on the ground. The Sooners have allowed three sacks, and Notre Dame has allowed four.