College football previews

No. 5 Irish, No. 8 Sooners add to rich history

2012-10-26T19:45:00Z 2012-10-27T02:56:08Z No. 5 Irish, No. 8 Sooners add to rich historyThe Associated Press The Associated Press
October 26, 2012 7:45 pm  • 

The words "Play Like a Champion Today" are plastered on the walls leading from the locker room to the field at both No. 5 Notre Dame and No. 8 Oklahoma, a rich piece of tradition the storied schools happen to share.

Come tonight, a rare meeting between the programs will test the championship mettle for both the Fighting Irish (7-0) and the Sooners (5-1).

It's just the second meeting since 1968 in a series that has fallen in Notre Dame's favor throughout the years. Oklahoma's only win in nine tries against the Irish came exactly 56 years ago in 1956.

Three times, the Sooners suffered their only loss of a season against Notre Dame, including the end of their NCAA record 47-game winning streak in 1957.

This time, a shot at a championship could be on the line again.

"We're 7-0 and now we have the chance to be 12-0 and now we have a good team coming up," said Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o, who is garnering Heisman Trophy buzz. "We can't look past that and we have to just look at Oklahoma, what they do and work on being 8-0."

Coach Bob Stoops didn't spend much time harping on the historical implications of the rivalry, but his players certainly were made aware that Oklahoma is just 1-8 all-time against Notre Dame.

"That's all great. It's unfortunate that that happened, but it's one of those things where we can't really worry about that kind of stuff," said center Gabe Ikard, who grew up a bit of a Notre Dame fan at a Catholic high school in Oklahoma City and considered playing for the Irish.

"That makes a great story for the game and it sets it up well, but what it comes down to is two teams playing each other on the field," he said.

Said safety Javon Harris: "It's ancient history. We're here to try to make history."

Seeking its ninth national championship, Notre Dame has built its undefeated start behind Te'o and the nation's second-stingiest defense, allowing just 9.4 points per game. A bruising running game that produced two 100-yard rushers a week ago has helped overcome uncertainty at quarterback, where sophomore Everett Golson and junior Tommy Rees have split time.

Coach Brian Kelly said Golson will get the start against Oklahoma after sitting out last week's win against BYU because of lingering issues from a concussion. He called Golson the healthiest he's been in weeks because of previous shoulder and toe injuries.

Hoosiers, Illini look to end Big Ten streaks: For Indiana and Illinois, Big Ten wins are hard to come by.

The Hoosiers have lost their last 11, chalking up their last conference victory in a game against Purdue almost two years ago in the 2010 season finale. Illinois has lost nine straight since beating the Hoosiers last fall.

One of the two, will end their skid today in Champaign and Indiana might have the edge.

Illinois (2-5, 0-3 Big Ten) has been crushed in losing its last four games by an average score of 41-11. The Hoosiers (2-5, 0-3) are losing, too, five in a row since beating Massachusetts in early September. But they've lost the last three by an average of less than three points a game. And the competition — Ohio State, Michigan State and Navy — hasn't been shabby.

The big difference between the two teams over their losing streaks is that Indiana is putting up points, 35 a game.

And they're doing it, Illinois linebacker Ashante Williams said, by moving fast, maybe faster than any team the Illini have seen this season. And that's saying something since Illinois has lost to Arizona State and Louisiana Tech, teams known for their quick-snap, no-huddle attacks.

"They line up so fast that other teams aren't set and they're hiking the ball," Williams said. "A lot of times on film you see a lot of the teams trying to shift guys standing up, running back to positions, walking back to positions, and that's how they get a lot of big plays."

Indiana coach Kevin Wilson said he has seen his team make progress, from being several big plays short of a win to maybe one over the past few weeks.

For Purdue and Minnesota, Big Ten has been tough: The Big Ten's strength has been questioned all season after some ugly wins and bad losses for several of its top-tier teams. Purdue and Minnesota have found the league to be plenty challenging.

After impressive performances in their nonconference games, both the Boilermakers and the Gophers have been set back in Big Ten play. The two teams that might be fighting for one of the conference's last bowl spots will meet today and one side will enjoy that elusive first Big Ten victory.

"I feel like everyone's got a different mindset. Obviously, we're a little salty about the losses we have," Purdue defensive tackle and E.C. Central graduate Kawann Short said. "But once that day is gone, you can't replay it."

The same move-on theme has been preached around Minnesota this week. Coach Jerry Kill urged his players to shake off their discouragement and focus on the opportunity to win at least two more to be eligible to grab a bowl game invitation.

"He spoke to the underclassmen as well as the seniors to do everything you can to step this thing up right now and really make a push to finish this thing off right," linebacker Mike Rallis said. "The team has really responded great."

The Gophers (4-3, 0-3 Big Ten) have lost at Iowa, to Northwestern and at Wisconsin. The Boilermakers (3-4, 0-3), who were beaten by only three points at Notre Dame, currently ranked fifth, were blown out by Michigan and Wisconsin. Then they squandered a 22-14 lead in the closing seconds last week at Ohio State and lost in overtime.

Hawkeyes, Wildcats hope to bounce back: Northwestern and Iowa have spent the past week trying to get over crushing home defeats.

At least the Wildcats were close.

Northwestern (6-2, 2-2 Big Ten) blew a 12-point lead midway through the fourth quarter and lost a heartbreaker to Nebraska, 29-28, last Saturday. The Hawkeyes (4-3, 2-1) let Penn State jump out to an early lead and got crushed, 38-14, in one of the worst losses of coach Kirk Ferentz's 14-year tenure.

The results gave the teams an added sense of urgency heading into today's game at Northwestern since both are in danger falling out of contention in the Big Ten Legends Division.

"It falls on the leadership. There's no question about it. There's a certain formula we have around here, win or lose. We stick to that formula," Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said. "The guys understand what happened, what we did and what we can do better."

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