Here’s what we’ll be watching when Oklahoma travels to Notre Dame (3:30 p.m., NBC).
Sooners running game: OU has started the season with a improved running game, averaging more rushing yards per game (271.67) than passing yards (218.67). Yet the Sooners ran the ball well against average teams a year ago before being shut down against the Irish. Will the same thing happen again?
Blake Bell in his first road start: The Sooners quarterback has more game experience than most quarterbacks with one start, a point the OU coaches mentioned this week. Yet nobody knows how Bell will respond when asked to operate the Sooners' regular offense in a hostile road environment.
OU’s defense gets a chance to prove itself: The Sooners defense has been very good this season, allowing just 4.6 yards per play through the first three games. OU’s new aggressive approach will be tested for the first time by a physical, running offense in ND.
Speaking of defense: OU has used primarily a three-man front in its first three games, yet expect the Sooners to use a four-man front quite a bit against the Irish. The Sooners’ three-man setup is ideal against the Big 12 spread attacks they will face this season, but a four-man defensive front is better equipped to hold up to what the Irish bring to the table. Defensive coordinator Mike Stoops wanted his defense to be more versatile this season, so this game could determine if it actually is.
Sooners offense looking for big plays: OU had offensive success against Notre Dame last season but couldn’t make any big plays. The Sooners also struggled to break the big play in their first two games of 2013 before six pass plays of 20 yards or more against Tulsa. The Sooners will need at least one explosive play if they hope to beat the Irish.