When Notre Dame and Oklahoma meet on Saturday in Norman, it will be only the 10th matchup between two of college football’s all-time powerhouses.
The No. 5 (BCS) Irish (7-0) have stunned many by maintaining an undefeated season, despite playing one of the nation’s toughest schedules. The Sooners (5-1), ranked No. 8 in the BCS and with only a loss to Kansas State (on FOX) on their season resume, have only beaten Notre Dame once — in 1953. The following season, Notre Dame returned the favor to end the Sooners’ historical 47-game winning streak.
Plenty is on the line, with both teams fighting for a spot in the BCS Championship Game.
"I think we are in a good spot," Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones said. "The key now is to not get complacent, not think we have it all figured out and continue to work, continue to sharpen, continue to do the things that we’re supposed to be doing.
"I think we’ve got a shot at this thing."
Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said his team is very confidence.
"I think controlling the football for us and playing great defense in the second half has been our formula for winning and we are not going to go away from that," Kelly said. "It goes to the toughness of our football team. They believe they are going to win."
Ready as always
The state of Oklahoma is buzzing. South Bend and 50 states full of Notre Dame alums are as well. Heck, even the fan bases of Oregon, Kansas State, Georgia, LSU, Oregon State and, especialy, USC will be tuned in Saturday in prime time when undefeated and heavy underdog Notre Dame takes on its toughest foe to date, the Oklahoma Sooners.
And of course, the Irish are chomping at the bit as well. After all, there’s a football game to be played.
"We’ll take this week like any other week," linebacker Danny Spond said. "We won’t do anything differently, just another challenge for us. We’ll get out there and just play our game.
"They’re an amazing offense; they’re top 10 for a reason. There’s no doubt about it watching them on film. They have a lot of threats out there; they’re very fast, very big, very physical. Speed is a big factor in the outcome. But we’re not doing anything different than the last seven games, and we’ll see what happens."
The one-game-at-a-time approach has served Brian Kelly’s Irish well. Its the only logical approach a team can take when four of its first eight games include opponents ranked among the nation’s top 18 — with none against an FCS warm-up school to work out the kinks.
Character is revealed behind closed doors. In today’s me-first culture where sports "heroes" allow their need for the limelight to dominate and define their ethics, a story of real character and human connection isn’t easy to find.
Manti Te’o didn’t even know Bridget Smith. They were two people from two worlds: A Mormon football star at Notre Dame who is a Hawaiian of Samoan descent. A dying 12-year-old Catholic girl from suburban Detroit.
It was earlier this month, just three weeks after Te’o’s girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, died of leukemia. His grandmother had died, too. He was trying to graduate. He was on the cover of the current Sports Illustrated. So much swirling in the mind of a college kid. How would you have handled all that at that age?
When his girlfriend died, the natural reaction for Te’o could have been, "Why her? Why me?" It would have been understandable if he had been thinking about himself at that moment.
Instead: "Dear Mr. and Mrs. Smith." Te’o wrote an emotional letter, via email. Picture a big, tough linebacker sitting at his computer, "definitely crying," as he said, over someone else’s pain, some stranger’s pain.