- Matt Fortuna, ESPN Staff Writer
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I'm 4-for-4. You probably don't want me to go 5-for-5.
When Oklahoma has the ball: Blake Bell is making his first career road start. He has given everyone he has faced trouble with his ability to run the football, but Brian Kelly stressed this week that Bell will beat you with your arm as well. He is 6-foot-6, 252 pounds, and he is coming off a 413-yard, four-touchdown outing two weeks ago in his first career start, albeit against Tulsa. Notre Dame gave up a lot of yardage last year in Norman, Okla., but the Irish were able to keep the ball in front of them, bunkering down when push came to shove in the red zone. They cannot afford to miss tackles the way they have early this season, and they cannot let the Sooners' receivers -- namely, Jalen Saunders, he of 15 catches and 181 yards in last year's meeting -- get behind them.
When Notre Dame has the ball: The Sooners have the nation's No. 5 scoring defense (9 ppg). Of course, they have played just three games against three bad opponents. Notre Dame won last year's game by 17, but it is easy to forget that this was a 13-13 contest with six minutes remaining. The Irish had done a brilliant job of controlling the line of scrimmage before catching the Oklahoma defense off-guard with a big play -- a 50-yard, play-action strike to then-freshman Chris Brown that set up the go-ahead score. That's easier to do with Everett Golson than it is with Tommy Rees. And it's easier to execute when you have a strong running game. Cierre Wood's 62-yard first-quarter touchdown helped open that up for the Irish early. They should continue to try to establish a ground attack early, but they have had lots of trouble getting it going through four games.
Intangible: Everyone was sleeping on the Irish during last year's contest. That is no longer the case. Oklahoma got pushed around in a venue the Sooners don't pushed around much in, and they are coming off a bye entering this contest.
Prediction: Oklahoma 24, Notre Dame 17. These slow starts will eventually catch up to the Irish, and the Sooners are too talented to not make them pay.