Setting the stage: OU-Notre Dame

OU quarterback Blake Bell

OU takes to the road for the first time season. Examining the matchup between the Sooners and Notre Dame.

SoonersIllustrated.com is going to set the stage every week breaking down Oklahoma's game during the 2013 season.

No. 14 OU (3-0) at No. 22 Notre Dame (3-1)

When: 2:30 p.m. CST Saturday

OU's biggest question going into the game

Junior quarterback Blake Bell has been in tough road environments before, but how will he handle being the starter at a place like Notre Dame? Bell said last week he grew up all around Irish fans and admits it's going to be a special feeling.

But it's a feeling that needs to wear off during warmups. Bell has to be focused and ready to lead the charge in OU's first road game of the season.

His teammates and coaches don't believe that is going to be a problem.

"I expect Blake to handle himself in a great way," offensive coordinator Josh Heupel said. "He's been in a tough environment in big games and in critical situation on the road. He's had to work extremely hard to get to play, and he's played in a couple of environments like that. It takes a lot of energy and a lot of work to get that done."

There was nothing but positives for Bell and for the Sooners in his first start against Tulsa. A good start led to a history making day. But what will Bell and OU do when faced with adversity?

That's something Heupel can't answer, and he said he feels like that's one of the questions that is going to be answered by the Sooners this weekend.

Notre Dame's biggest question going into the game

What if OU matches the physicality of the Irish? Going into the game, everything seems to point in favor of the Sooners. Better athletes, have looked more impressive in the first month of the season.

But the one thing still lingering in the back of everybody's mind is how physical Notre Dame is compared to OU. Well, at least to OU's team last year.

If Bill Bedenbaugh has done his job with the offensive line and Jerry Montgomery the same with the defense, what do the Irish do?

Quarterback Tommy Rees has proven to be a capable starter, but there haven't been any signs of being the guy who can make that big play in the big moment. If Notre Dame can't overpower the Sooners, will Rees have the answer?

Quotable

"We go to a lot of cool places to play football, but this is one of the cathedrals of college football. A bunch of us have never been there. A couple of us have been there on official visits. We're excited to go play there and once you step in between the lines it's you and the other team. You can't really get consumed by the stadium and the atmosphere. We appreciate the history that building has, but what it comes down to is that we have to go there and just play football." – OU senior center Gabe Ikard

Breakout player

Going to go defense for the third straight game. This time around it's linebacker Eric Striker who is going to make a huge play in this one. Rees doesn't have the mobility, and with a bye week, something is going to be designed for Striker to come off the edge and make his impact known. One way or another, it's going to be a big day for the OU linebackers.

Prediction

OU 23, Notre Dame 14. Know a lot of OU fans are hoping for a 40-spot or something similar, but it won't be easy to penetrate the Irish defense. The battle in the trenches will prove to be significant, but Bell's poise in a hostile environment in the second half will be the best sign of the day for the Sooners. Won't be aesthetically pleasing, but the Sooners go on the road and get the job done.

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