No. 8 Oklahoma (5-1) has played in a ton of big games since Bob Stoops arrived on campus, but Saturday night’s nationally televised game against No. 5 Notre Dame (7-0) is one of the toughest tickets in school history. And it’s easily the biggest game for the Fighting Irish in several years. The winner would remain in great shape for a place in the National Championship Game at best and a BCS bowl at worst. The loser almost certainly can forget about playing for the title (these schools have combined for 15 National Championships).
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Since the AP Poll began in 1936, this will be only the 17th time a game has been played at Owen Field in Norman with both Oklahoma and the opponent ranked in the Top 10 and the first since 2008. Oklahoma has won three straight of those games and is 10-6 overall.
This is the 10th meeting all-time between these storied programs with the Irish leading 8-1 and having won six straight. But it’s Notre Dame’s first visit to Norman since 1966, when the Irish won 38-0 en route to a national title. The most memorable meeting came in 1957, when Notre Dame’s 7-0 victory snapped the Sooners' 47-game winning streak. When the Irish beat Oklahoma in 1999, it was Stoops’ first loss as the OU head coach. That was the last meeting.
Notre Dame at Oklahoma Betting Storylines
Let’s start with the big news first: Everett Golson will start at quarterback for the Irish. Golson, a sophomore, suffered a concussion two games ago vs. Stanford and was cleared to practice last week but didn’t play vs. BYU. Tommy Rees, who has played in every game in which he wasn’t suspended this season, started and was 7-for-16 for 117 yards with a touchdown and an interception in the 17-14 win.
The Notre Dame offense has been rather inconsistent this season. The Irish average just 25.9 points per game, easily the lowest of any Top 10 team, and Coach Brian Kelly won’t hesitate to relieve Golson with Rees again (UND passing is 100th at 194.0 yards per game). Golson could be rattled as this is only Notre Dame’s second true road game. On the bright side, the Irish have rushed for 796 combined yards the past three games, the best three-game stretch since 2003.
Meanwhile, the Irish defense has been unbelievable. That group hasn’t allowed a rushing touchdown all season (Stanford’s Stepfan Taylor might disagree). Notre Dame is the third school in the past 16 years to not allow a rushing TD in the first seven games of a season. BYU’s two offensive scores last week were the first the Irish had allowed since Week 2 vs. Purdue. Notre Dame has allowed three first-quarter points this season and no first-half touchdowns. Star linebacker Manti Te'o, who deserves to be a Heisman finalist, is tied for the most interceptions by a linebacker in the FBS with four and has two fumble recoveries.
That group will be severely tested by an OU offense that has found itself. The Sooners’ national title hopes seemed over when they lost 24-19 at home to Kansas State. But Oklahoma has blown out its next three opponents out and is averaging 52 points in that stretch. The Sooners have outscored their last three opponents 98-15 in the first half in that winning streak. OU’s star is QB Landry Jones, but the Sooners have a big goal-line weapon in backup QB Blake Bell. The 6-foot-5, 254-pound “Belldozer” has carried the ball 15 times inside an opponent's 10-yard line this season and has scored on eight of them (he did have a crucial fumble in the KSU loss). The Sooners have scored on 32 of 33 red-zone trips overall to rank first in the nation in efficiency. Notre Dame is second on defense in red zone situations.
In addition, the OU defense has forced nine turnovers and held opponents to 16 points per game during that winning streak. And the Sooners faced two very good offenses in Texas Tech and Texas. Oklahoma has allowed just nine points in the third quarter this season and four of the past six opponents have been held to 174 yards passing or less.
Notre Dame at Oklahoma Betting Odds and Trends
Oklahoma is a 10.5-point favorite with the total at 48 on WagerWeb. The Irish are 4-3 ATS and 1-6 “over/under”; Sooners are 4-2 ATS and 3-2 O/U.
Notre Dame is 3-7 ATS in its past 10 vs. teams with a winning record. OU is 6-1 ATS in its past seven non-conference games. The under is 4-0 in the Irish’s past four games following an ATS loss. The under is 4-1 in Oklahoma’s past five nonconference games.
College Football Picks: Notre Dame at Oklahoma Predictions
The only reason Oklahoma lost to K-State was three big turnovers, and OU has looked like a team on a mission since. Notre Dame has been playing with fire the past two games and could have lost both. In fact, it’s the first time the Irish have won games when trailing at the half in consecutive weeks since 1920. Notre Dame is a stellar 4-0 in games decided by a TD or less. OU’s only close game was that Kansas State loss.
Oklahoma has lost just four home games under Stoops and never two in the same season. OU is 14-1 vs. ranked teams in Norman and 3-0 against Top-10 clubs under the coach. And I don’t think that changes. Jones is by far the best throwing QB that Notre Dame has seen so far. However, 10.5 points is just slightly too much. Take the Irish and the under.
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