When Notre Dame hosts Oklahoma Saturday, the Fighting Irish will face a starting quarterback unlike any other they'll see this year. Sooners signal-caller Blake Bell, the 6'6, 252-pound junior who gained notoriety over the last two years by carrying the ball in short-yardage situations, will present a significant threat when running and throwing.
In 20 games during his freshman and sophomore seasons, Bell rushed for a total of 353 yards and 24 touchdowns, but he only threw the ball 20 times, completing 10 passes for 115 yards, zero touchdowns and one interception. In preseason practice, he lost out to freshman Trevor Knight in the race for the starting quarterback job. But after Knight went down with an injury against West Virginia in Week 2, Bell was given a chance to start the following week against Tulsa.
The Belldozer impressed against the Golden Hurricane, completing 27-of-37 passes for passes for 413 yards and four touchdowns in a 51-20 win. If there were any doubts regarding Bell's throwing ability, he seems to have squashed them.
For Notre Dame, stopping Bell won't be easy. Head coach Brian Kelly told CSN Chicago that he sees the QB as a threat on the ground and through the air.
"The biggest challenge is him having runs and passes built into the same play," coach Brian Kelly said. "That's where it really becomes a challenge, because the kid can throw the football. I think that's being overlooked, is that he throws the ball very well.
"We see him more as a passing threat. He can certainly run it, but he's a passing threat."
The Irish, who relied on their defense during a run to the BCS Championship Game last season, haven't been quite as good on that side of the ball in 2013. They allow 342.5 yards per game, ranking 41st nationally, and their 21.0 points allowed per game ranks 45th in the country. They've already had trouble stopping a dual-threat quarterback once this year. Michigan's Devin Gardner compiled 294 yards through the air, 82 on the ground and five total touchdowns on Sept. 7.
If Notre Dame allows Bell to have the kind of success Gardner had in Michigan's 41-30 win in Week 2, it's hard to see the Irish topping the Sooners for the second year in a row.