Irish have shot at resume-making win in Oklahoma

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Irish have shot at resume-making win in Oklahoma

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Ask anybody on Notre Dame, and they'll give you the same line: we're taking it one game at a time, this game is just as big as the rest, etc., etc.

That's the mantra coach Brian Kelly has instilled in the team, keeping any discussions of BCS aspirations as muted as possible. But since Notre Dame won't look at the big picture, here's what it is:

If Notre Dame goes into Norman on Saturday and wins, they'll have a legitimate stake in the national title discussion. Of course, that's much easier said than done.

"It'll just be a great environment, loud crowd, everybody against us," defensive tackle Louis Nix said. "We just gotta prove some people wrong, try to come out with a win."

Notre Dame has only played one true road game this year, a 20-3 win over a Michigan State team that looks much weaker than its No. 10 ranking on Sept. 15. Bob Stoops is 79-4 at Owen Field during his tenure in Norman, a number that sets the odds well against Notre Dame heading into Saturday.

"It's an incredible accomplishment, and obviously, you know, they're a really good football team and they've been a really good football team," linebacker Manti Te'o said. "But we're going to prepare the way we've always been preparing and we're not going to do anything different."

But a recent blueprint does exist for beating Oklahoma in Norman, thanks to No. 3 Kansas State. Collin Klein and K-State beat Oklahoma in Norman 24-19 earlier in the season, partly due to forcing a few Landry Jones mistakes. Irish safety Zeke Motta has seen the film of that game, and noticed something that could work to Notre Dame's advantage.

"Landry Jones has the ability to be a little mobile in the pocket to extend the play if he needs to, he has that athletic ability," Motta prefaced. "But I think looking at the Kansas State game, you see the receivers who are coming off and they're getting jammed up a bit and slowing them down, so taking a little bit of speed off helps."

Taking away those quick passes could allow Notre Dame's pass rush to hit Jones early and knock him out of his comfort zone. Jones has been locked in the last few weeks, largely thanks to only being hit a combined three times in OU's last three games. K-State got to Jones five times, with two sacks and a forced fumble.

"He's gotten into a good rhythm," Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said. "He hasn't been disrupted very much. And I think, like most good quarterbacks, if you can get into a good rhythm and you're not disrupted, you're going to be pretty effective. You can see that's been the case."

If Notre Dame can replicate the pressure K-State put on Jones, they should be able to avoid a shootout. Chances are, if Notre Dame is to win, it's going to be on the backs of their defense.

"You're not going to win those games," Kelly said of high-scoring contests against OU. "So it's going to start on the defensive side of the ball for us and to keep the points down, and then obviously find a way to get some scores. And it's going to be hard on both ends. I think we're going to see two teams that are going to be really pushing hard to get points on the board on both sides."

Keeping Oklahoma's points down has a major advantage for Notre Dame's offense, too. If OU jumps out to a big lead early, Notre Dame may be forced to try to pass their way back into the game -- and that's with a quarterback -- Everett Golson -- who will start just his second career road game.

But if Notre Dame is able to get the ball to Theo Riddick, Cierre Wood and George Atkinson on the ground, the Irish could find a way to set the tempo for the game.

A lot needs to go right for Notre Dame to pull off a win on Saturday, but Notre Dame has already done those things in previous games this year. And a win in Norman would be a signature win for Notre Dame's national title hopes, no matter how much the team downplays that notion.

"At this point every game is a signature game," Te'o said. "Every game is important. We approach every game that way, and I think we've come a long way and I think at this point in time in the season every game is a signature game."

Saquon Barkley good to go for Penn State, but Badgers have a couple injury questions

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USA TODAY

Saquon Barkley good to go for Penn State, but Badgers have a couple injury questions

INDIANAPOLIS — Is Saquon Barkley good to go for Saturday night’s Big Ten Championship Game?

Most definitely, according to Penn State head coach James Franklin, with the Nittany Lions pulling out all the stops to make sure their best player is ready to go up against Wisconsin.

"He's been drinking a lot of milk all week and orange juice and Vitamin C. We flew in Mr. Miyagi, hit him on the ankle with the hands," Franklin joked during his Friday press conference ahead of the conference title game.

"Honestly, I know a lot of times coaches get up and say that and it's a smoke screen. But he's practiced all week long. He looks great."

Barkley's status has been a question since he missed the end of last weekend's win over Michigan State. Franklin said multiple times this week that he expected Barkley to play, but take Friday's answer has unequivocal confirmation that the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year will be in action Saturday.

Wisconsin, on the other hand, has a couple unknowns on the eve of the title bout. Both quarterback Alex Hornibrook and defensive lineman Conor Sheehy were listed as questionable on the team's Friday-afternoon injury report.

Hornibrook sat out the second half of last weekend's win over Minnesota, forcing head coach Paul Chryst to turn his two-quarterback system into a one-man show starring Bart Houston.

Could that also be the case Saturday night? Chryst was asked if he would play both quarterbacks against Penn State, and unsurprisingly the answer has a lot to do with Hornibrook's health.

"We'll see where Alex kind of finishes out this week," Chryst said in his Friday press conference. "But I wouldn't hesitate if everything goes good and Alex finishes out this week, I would not hesitate at all."

That falls in line with what Chryst has been doing the majority of this season, mixing it up by playing both Hornibrook and Houston throughout games.

What's more of an unknown is what happens if Sheehy can't go. He's played in all 12 games this season and registered 27 tackles including four tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks to go along with a forced fumble and a blocked kick.

But this wouldn't be the first time the Badgers have had to fall back on a "next man up" approach on defense. Linebackers Chris Orr and Jack Cichy are done for the season, Orr knocked out in Week 1 and Cichy playing in just seven games. Other defensive playmakers like T.J. Edwards and Vince Biegel have missed games, too.

"We'll see if that's the case," Chryst said, certainly not ruling out the possibility of Sheehy playing Saturday. "I think all year long when we've had players get injured and miss time, you miss them. I mean, they're starters, players playing a lot for a reason. Yet also feel good about those that have and will step up and into those positions. So we'll still kind of see on Conor.

"It's an opportunity for someone else to step up, step in. Yet we know we're always best with all of our guys. But that's not the case so often in the year."

Fantasy Football Start/Sit: Week 13

Fantasy Football Start/Sit: Week 13

It's win-or-go-home time in Fantasy Football.

Most leagues end their regular season in Week 13, leaving just one more matchup for people to sneak into the playoffs. 

If you fall into that category, remember one thing — ride or die with who got you here:

Don't try to get too cute with your lineups, but if you have fringe guys on the bubble, we're here to help.

If you have any questions, hit us up on @CSNFantasy and tune in to our weekly Fantasy Fix Facebook Live show.

Let's get right into the Week 13 Start/Sit and as always, Liam Neeson has a message for you:

[Check out the CSN Fantasy page for more content]

START

Devontae Booker, RB, DEN (@ JAX) - Yes, Booker has failed to reach the end zone since Week 8, but his 24 carries in back-to-back weeks is a sight to behold for his owners. Evntually, the rookie will start turning his carries (second in touches since Week 10) into scores, and that should come as early as this week against a mediocre run defense in the Jaguars. (Scott Krinch)

DeAndre Hopkins, WR, HOU (@ GB) - Hopkins is still an integral part of Houston's offense with 62 targets over the last six weeks. Before shutting down the Eagles WR corps last week (which included Jordan Matthews leaving with an ankle injury), the Packers had allowed 771 yards and 9 TDs to opposing WRs in the last four games. Green Bay's secondary is still banged up and in a win-or-go-home situation, I'm gonna roll with a guy like Hopkins with a safe floor and hope/pray/wish upon a star that he finally finds the end zone or tops 100 yards (or both!). (Tony Andracki)

Donte Moncrief, WR, IND (@ NYJ) - Moncrief has scored a TD in five of six games this season, returning fantasy value even though he hasn't topped 64 yards in a game yet. Andrew Luck is supposed to be back from a concussion and if he is, he has a great rapport with Moncrief. The Jets pass defense is shaky and Moncrief could easily find the end zone again and very well may turn in his first 100-yard game with T.Y. Hilton still banged up as well. (Andracki)

Marquess Wilson, WR, CHI (vs. SF) - In his second game since coming off the IR, Wilson turned in a monster line of eight receptions for 125 yards and a touchdown. His 11 targets led a depleted Bears' wide receiving corps. Wilson should be looked at as a WR2 this week against a 49ers defense which has given up the third-most fantasy points to opposing wideouts and has been torched (5 TDs) in their last two games. (Krinch)

[SHOP BEARS: Get your Bears gear here]

SIT 

Jay Ajayi, RB, MIA (@ BAL) - Baltimore has quietly built a very good defense again and rank as the top unit against fantasy RBs this season. The Ravens have allowed only three rushing TDs to running backs all season and just one since Week 2. Ajayi broke out in Weeks 6-9, but is averaging only 10 PPR points and 73 total yards per week since then. (Andracki)

Blake Bortles, QB, JAX (vs. DEN)Mr. Garbage Time faces a stiff test in the league's best defense against opposing quarterbacks in Week 13. The Broncos pressure rate of 38 percent is the highest total of any NFL team in the eight years, and they should feast on a below-average passer in Bortles, who ranks 30th among signal-callers in yards per dropback. If you're looking for a safe play, stay far away from Bortles. (Krinch)

Robert Kelley, RB, WSH (@ ARI) - "Fat Rob" may have added a few inches around his waistline after a long Thankgiving layoff. The rookie running back is coming off a 14 carry/37-yard game, and looks to be a non-factor once again when the Redskins square off against the the Cardinals, who are allowing five points less per game than the league average to opposing fantasy backs. (Krinch)

Philip Rivers, QB, SD (vs. TB) - There are so many good fantasy options at QB right now and even though Rivers is the clear engine that makes the Chargers offense go, it's not like he's putting up elite numbers. In fact, over the last four games, Rivers has tossed eight interceptions. Throw in the matchup (the Buccaneers have allowed only two TDs and 594 passing yards the last three games) and an already-depleted receiver corps dealing with a bunch of injuries of their own and Rivers is a guy to stay away from this week if you can afford to. (Andracki)