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Sooners taking on Notre Dame in South Bend; Bell’s first road test

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SOUTH BEND, Ind. – The unbeaten (3-0) Sooners will travel to South Bend for Saturday afternoon’s nationally televised clash at once-beaten Notre Dame.

You can see the game at 2:30 p.m. CT right here on News Channel 4 from NBC.

The Sooners had the week off after an easy 51-20 win over Tulsa and now junior quarterback Blake Bell will make his second straight start, and if he’s as successful as he was against the Golden Hurricane, Oklahoma should roll past the Fighting Irish.

The 6-6, 260-pound Bell debuted with a 413 yard passing game against Tulsa, the most ever for a Sooners QB making his first career start.

He also tossed four touchdown tosses, looking very comfortable all the while.

Notre Dame enters the clash coming off a tough 17-13 win over Michigan State last weekend at Notre Dame Stadium.

The Irish just squeaked by their in-state rival Purdue 31-24 the week before that after getting tossed around 41-30 in a loss at Michigan three weeks ago.

So at 3-1, head coach Brian Kelly’s crew indeed has a loss but they have played much stiffer competition than the Sooners have in OU’s wins against Louisiana-Monroe, West Virginia and TU.

The Sooners should have some success running the football against Notre Dame, with RB Damion Williams expected to return after a 1-game suspension kept him out of the Tulsa affair.

Add bruising true freshman RB Keith Ford to the mix along with the always reliable seniors, RB Brennan Clay, RB Roy Finch and FB Trey Millard and Oklahoma hopes for lots more success on the ground than they had in last year’s loss to Notre Dame in Norman.

On that October night in 2012, the Sooners only mustered 15 yards rushing, total.

Notre Dame is a much different team than the one that beat OU 30-13 in Norman last fall; QB Everett Gholson is sitting out a season-long suspension and LB Manti Te’o is now playing for the NFL’s San Diego Chargers.

Both of those guys terrorized the Sooners in last year’s victory.

This year’s starting QB for the Irish, Tommy Rees, was Gholson’s back-up last season and he’s just OK.

Rees struggled passing the ball in the win over Michigan State last weekend, hitting just 14-34 passes for under 150 yards.

With the way the Sooners are playing defense this year, they feel good about being aggressive and containing Notre Dame’s offense Saturday.

As for the Irish on defense, their big defensive tackle Louis Nix (who wears jersey #1) is a block of granite at 6-3, 360 pounds and their defensive ends can both play (Sheldon Day and Stephon Tuitt).

Look for OU’s receivers to continue their improved play and if the Sooners can protect Blake Bell and let him throw, they should be able to stop an average Notre Dame offense as Oklahoma tries to beat Notre Dame for only the second time in the storied history of the rivalry.

All-time, OU is just 1-9 v. the Fighting Irish.

Don’t forget our pre-game show Friday, Sept. 27 at 6:30 p.m., “The Showdown in South Bend.”

We will have a look-back at all the previous games and other special stories featuring such former Sooner greats at head coach Barry Switzer, RB Clendon Thomas, two-way lineman Bill Krisher and current OU director of football operations Merv Johnson remembering his days coaching a kid at Notre Dame who just wouldn’t go away…a guy named “Rudy”, who had a movie named after him.