In terms of college football history, Notre Dame and Oklahoma rank near the top when the discussion concerns iconic programs. That's one reason why Saturday's game is drawing so much attention.
A non-conference game of such significance this late in the season is rare. But the schedule makers that matched the independent Fighting Irish against the Sooners of the Big 12 Conference on the last Saturday of September were prescient. Not only will the game rekindle a storied series, it is significant in the national championship chase.
In its third year under Brian Kelly, Notre Dame is 7-0 and ranked No. 5. A victory over Oklahoma, which is ranked No. 8, on the road on national television, would continue to boost the Irish.
"If you're 7-0 and five in the country and you think you've arrived, then that's where as a coach and a team you're in peril," Kelly said. "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. It goes to the toughness of our football team. They believe they are going to win."
The Sooners, meanwhile, have been on a tear since their only loss and are also seeking the attention that would come from knocking off a high profile, undefeated team with a better ranking.
"I think we are in a good spot," Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones said of the Sooners' position in the national title chase. "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."
The last time a ranked team visited Norman, Kansas State left with a 24-19 victory. The Wildcats took advantage of three crucial Oklahoma turnovers. Similar sloppiness against Notre Dame would be difficult to overcome. The Irish defense has been stout and has a plus-9 edge in turnover margin. That's similar to Kansas State's style as the Wildcats are plus-25 in turnover margin the last two seasons.
"There are a lot of similar characteristics," Oklahoma defensive coordinator Mike Stoops said of Notre Dame and Kansas State. "They're disciplined, very well coached, and very physical. Those patterns and similarities are consistent with a lot of great teams."
All times Central
Texas at Kansas
Need to know: 11 a.m., Memorial Stadium, FSN.
Records: Texas 5-2, 2-2; Kansas 1-6, 0-4.
Scouting Texas: A victory would put the Longhorns above .500 in conference play and make them bowl eligible. The defense continues to struggle against the run; UT is last in the Big 12 in rushing defense, allowing an average of 215 yards per game. Kansas is at its best offensively when its run game is clicking.
Scouting Kansas: Coach Charlie Weis announced that redshirt freshman Michael Cummings would start at quarterback. Senior QB Dayne Crist could see action in certain situations. The Jayhawks are coming off their most lopsided loss of the season. The defense is improved compared to last season but the offense is generating just 17 points per game.
This and that: Kansas has never defeated Texas in a Big 12 game. ... KU junior running back James Sims has eight 100-yard games. That makes him seventh all-time in the school record book. ... Texas is second in the Big 12 in sacks with 17 while Kansas has allowed the most sacks (19).
TCU at Oklahoma State
Need to know: 2:30 p.m., Boone Pickens Stadium, FSN.
Records: TCU 5-2, 2-2; Oklahoma State 4-2, 2-1.
Scouting TCU: The Horned Frogs will try to bounce back from a triple-overtime home-field loss to Texas Tech. Redshirt freshman quarterback Trevone Boykin has displayed poise and play-making abilities in his three starts. TCU leads the Big 12 in rushing defense and will be challenged to slow down Oklahoma State, which leads the conference in rushing offense.
Scouting Oklahoma State: With redshirt freshman J.W. Walsh out for the season with a knee injury, there is mystery as to who will start at quarterback. Is freshman Wes Lunt, who started the first three games before being sidelined by injury, ready? If not, junior Clint Chelf will take over the attack that leads the Big 12 with 605 yards per game.
This and that: TCU has scored at least 20 points in 33 consecutive games, the longest streak in the nation. Oklahoma State is second with 32. ... Oklahoma State kicker has 41 touchbacks on kickoffs. That's 15 more than any Big 12 team. ... TCU leads the Big 12 in sacks with 19 while Oklahoma State has allowed the fewest (three).
Texas Tech at Kansas State
Need to know: 2:30 p.m., Bill Snyder Family Stadium, FOX.
Records: Texas Tech 6-1, 3-1; Kansas State 7-0, 4-0.
Scouting Texas Tech: The Red Raiders are ranked No. 15 and can assert themselves as Big 12 title contenders with a victory. Texas Tech is No. 7 nationally in total defense and is vastly improved from last season. That unit will be challenged to shut down Kansas State's balanced attack that rarely makes a mistake.
Scouting Kansas State: The fourth-ranked Wildcats have won three Big 12 road games. Senior quarterback Collin Klein is coming off a seven touchdown performance (four rushing, three passing) that has vaulted him to the top of the Heisman Trophy projections.
This and that: Kansas State is the nation's only team who has yet to give up a point off a turnover. Five teams in the nation have allowed fewer than six points off their turnovers this season. Those five teams are a combined 35-0. ... Texas Tech senior quarterback Seth Doege leads FBS with 28 passing touchdowns. That matches his total from last season.
Baylor at Iowa State
Need to know: 6 p.m., Jack Trice Stadium, FSN.
Records: Baylor 3-3, 0-3; Iowa State 4-3, 1-3.
Scouting Baylor: The Bears are hoping to finish strong in the second half of their Big 12 schedule but to do that they need to fix some serious defensive issues. In its three conference losses, Baylor has allowed an average of 58 points. The offense is doing its best to keep up. Quarterback Nick Florence leads the Big 12 in total offense.
Scouting Iowa State: The problems for the Cyclones are the opposite of Baylor's. Iowa State is third in the Big 12 in scoring defense, but its offense is averaging just 23.6 points per game. The Cyclones are last in the Big 12 in rushing offense but they hope they can run the ball against the Bears in order to control the clock and take the pressure off the ISU defense.
This and that: In its last 2 games, Baylor's opponents have converted 24 of 35 third downs. ... Iowa State senior linebacker Jake Knott had 11 tackles against Oklahoma State. He has four games this season with double digits in tackles and 18 in his career.
Notre Dame at Oklahoma
Need to know: 7 p.m., Gaylord Family/Oklahoma Memorial Stadium, ABC.
Records: Notre Dame 7-0, Oklahoma 5-1.
Scouting Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish are second nationally in scoring defense and sixth in total defense. Senior linebacker MantiTe'o thrives in creating turnovers and is getting some Heisman Trophy buzz. Fifth-ranked Notre Dame is 74th nationally in total offense and 76th in scoring offense. The Irish are 7-0 for the first time since 2002; that season, they lost three of their last five.
Scouting Oklahoma: The eighth-ranked Sooners can continue their rise in the BCS standings by knocking off Notre Dame. Since losing at home to Kansas State over a month ago, Oklahoma has been dominant both offensively and defensively. OU's challenge against the Fighting Irish will be taking care of the football.
This and that: Notre Dame is 8-1 all-time against Oklahoma; no team has a better winning percentage against the Sooners. ... No team has scored more than 17 points against Notre Dame this season. ... Oklahoma has carried the ball 28 times in goal-to-go situations, scoring 15 times. That's the third-best mark in the country.