NORMAN — Whether fans cheer for old Notre Dame or Oklahoma, the Fighting Irish's resurgence into national prominence has woken up the echoes surrounding Saturday's game between two of the most storied programs in college football history.
“It's great for college football,” OU coach Bob Stoops said of Saturday's tilt with Notre Dame, which makes its first trip to Norman in 46 years.
“It's great for both programs. It's exciting and it's what you want.”
No. 5 Notre Dame and No. 8 Oklahoma, which claim a combined total of 18 national championships, meet in a prime-time, nationally televised clash on Owen Field, where the Fighting Irish ended one of football's greatest winning streaks 55 years ago.
Bud Wilkinson's Sooners had won 47 straight games before their Nov. 16, 1957, home loss to Notre Dame.
It only seems fitting, then, that an Oklahoma win Saturday would be Stoops' 145th leading the Sooners, which would elevate him into a second-place tie with Wilkinson on OU's list of all-time winningest football coaches. Barry Switzer tops the list with 157 wins.
Notre Dame, because of its status as the nation's pre-eminent Catholic university, a national television contract with NBC and its excellent football tradition, has supporters anywhere it goes to play football.
For those fans, the Notre Dame Club of Oklahoma City hosted a Friday evening rally at the Myriad Gardens, and will hold a 2 p.m. tailgate party outside the Lloyd Noble Center.
The Notre Dame marching band played Friday at The Children's Center in Bethany, and will practice at Noble High School in a free and open-to-the-public rehearsal from 1:15 to 2:30 p.m. Saturday afternoon.
Lee Corso, Kirk Herbstreit and the rest of ESPN's College GameDay crew will broadcast their popular Saturday morning preview show from OU's South Oval, adding to the exciting atmosphere.
The game itself kicks off at 7 p.m., and there's a lot on the line — like a possible 12th or eighth national title for Notre Dame or Oklahoma, respectively.
The Fighting Irish are unbeaten and ranked fifth in the BCS standings; Notre Dame hasn't won a national championship since 1988, enjoying only moderate success in the 20-plus years since. Third-year coach Brian Kelly has Notre Dame looking like a contender for the first time in years.
No. 8 Oklahoma has lost once this season — over a month ago to No. 3 Kansas State — but has drastically improved since then.
“Every one of their fans that can get a ticket will be there; that's the great part about it,” said Oklahoma assistant coach Bobby Jack Wright.
“Even though we're not a big rivalry, necessarily, it's special because you have two tradition-rich, proud programs with great fan bases.”