Notre Dame will play in its first game against a top-10 opponent while being ranked in the top 10 itself tonight when the No. 5 Irish (7-0) play No. 8 Oklahoma (5-1) inNorman,Okla.
Here are three matchups to watch for in this top-10 clash:
Notre Dame's defensive backs vs. Oklahoma's wide receivers: The Irish's secondary has exceeded expectations this year with only senior safety Zeke Motta having extensive game experience. Junior cornerback Bennett Jackson, freshman cornerback KeiVarae Russell and sophomore safety Matthias Farley have helped Notre Dame form the nation's eighth-best pass defense by efficiency rating, and Jackson is tied with linebacker Manti Te'o for the team lead with four interceptions. But Notre Dame hasn't faced a passing offense like Oklahoma's yet this season. The Sooners have had 21 passing plays go for 20 yards or more with four of those plays going for more than 40 yards. Quarterback Landry Jones has thrown for 1,644 yards with 12 touchdowns, and receiver Kenny Stills has 38 receptions for 471 yards with four touchdowns.
Notre Dame's running game vs. Oklahoma's run defense: The weakest link in the Sooners' defense is stopping the run. Oklahoma is giving up 138.2 rushing yards per game, ranking it No. 46 nationally. Notre Dame's rushing game has proved to be its biggest strength as running backs Theo Riddick, Cierre Wood and George Atkinson III have combined to run for 1,145 yards with nine touchdowns. But the Irish will reportedly be without Atkinson, who didn't make the trip because of flu-like symptoms, according to a report on ESPN.com. Without Atkinson, the Irish could use quarterback Everett Golson, who missed last weekend's game against BYU because of a concussion, in the running game more tonight. The sophomore has run for 81 yards and two touchdowns.
Notre Dame's red zone defense vs. Oklahoma's red zone offense: Both teams have been very strong inside the 20. The Irish have given up only four touchdowns and forced teams to settle for six field goals on 19 trips inside their 20-yard line. Oklahoma has scored on 32 of its 33 trips inside opponents' 20-yard line, scoring 25 touchdowns and seven field goals.
Prediction: Oklahoma 14, Notre Dame 10