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Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. Oklahoma Sooners Free Pick 9/28/13

Oklahoma Sooners (3-0) at Notre Dame Fighting Irish (3-1)

NCAAF Football: Saturday, September 28, 2013 at 3:30 pm (Notre Dame Stadium)

The Line: Notre Dame Fighting Irish +3 -- Over/Under: 48.5 See the Latest Odds


Storyline: Junior Oklahoma QB Blake Bell got his first career start against Tulsa in week 3 and ran with it, all the way to 413 yards and 4 touchdowns, leaving Bob Stoops to wonder why he overlooked Bell for a redshirt freshman to begin the season. The shakeup comes at the right time, though, with a road date against #22 Notre Dame one of this week’s marquee matchups. The Fighting Irish come into the contest at 3-1 after back-to-back fourth quarter rallies that catapulted them to victories against Purdue in week 3 and Michigan State Saturday.

The Breakdown: The Sooners are coming off a bye last week, leaving them well-rested and looking to exact revenge for the 30-13 spanking they suffered against ND last season. And if Bell’s performance against Tulsa was more than just a symptom of facing one of the worst pass defenses in the FBS, OU could have the edge here. Bell looked seasoned against the Golden Hurricane, connecting on 27-of-37 and spreading the ball around to virtually everyone, with ten different Sooners recording receptions. Oklahoma also brings to the table the nation’s 16th ranked rushing offense at 271.7 yards per game, and, defensively, the 5th stingiest defense, allowing just 9 points per contest.  Sr. RB Brennan Clay has been up and down, posting 43 yards against Louisiana-Monroe, 170 against West Virginia, and 49 against Tulsa, but Sr. Damien Williams has been a steady second option with 161 yards on 37 attempts in two games. Soph. WR Sterling Shepard leads the team in receiving after a breakout performance against Tulsa where he caught 8 balls for 123 yards and 2 touchdowns. On the season, Shepard has 11 receptions for 146 yards and 2 touchdowns. Sr. wideout Jalen Saunders, the team’s number three target last season, has yet to break out in 2013. Saunders has 10 catches for 137 yards and 3 touchdowns.

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Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. Oklahoma Sooners Free Pick 9/28/13

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

The Fighting Irish won’t be the same side that finished unscathed a season ago and got all the way to the national championship game. They look different on a lot of, levels, particularly at QB, where they’ll be without their dynamic playmaker Everett Golson. Along with Manti Te’o, Golson was Notre Dame’s driving force and the reason for the bulk of its success. Sr. QB Tommy Rees has stepped up nicely in Golson’s absence, however, putting up over 300 yards in 3 of 4 games. Saturday against Michigan State, Rees had his worst outing of the season, connecting on 14-of-34 for 142 yards and a score.  On the season, Rees has passed for 1,111 yards and 8 touchdowns. ND hasn’t produced much in the way of rushing yards this season and has yet to see a running back eclipse the century mark, ranking 100th nationally at 113.3 yards a game. The receiving duo of Jr. DaVaris Daniels and Sr. T.J. Jones has been outstanding through 4 games, tallying 20 receptions for 305 yards and 4 touchdowns, and 21 catches for 304 yards and 2 touchdowns respectively. Defensively, the Irish have dropped off the map from last season, ranking 45th and surrendering an average of 21 points per outing, and giving up 1,426 yards through 4 games for an average of 356 per contest.

Betting Trends: Oklahoma is 8-1 SU in its last 9 games, 5-0 SU in its last 5 road games, and the total has gone under in 4 of Oklahoma’s last 5 games. Notre Dame is 0-4-1 ATS in its last 5 games, 15-2 SU in its last 17 games, 1-5-1 ATS in its last 7 home games, 11-1 SU in its last 12 home games, and the total has gone under in 9 of Notre Dame’s last 11 home games.

Rick’s Pick: The line in this one is currently at -3 for Oklahoma and the over/under is at 48.5. The key matchup here pits a pretty good ND passing game against one of the nation’s top 5 defenses. And as good a performance as Blake Bell put up against Tulsa, it was still Tulsa. ND hasn’t fared much better defensively, though, giving up monster yards to just about everyone. Look for Bell to cement his position in a tight one and get the cover.

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