The fifth-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish’s task to keep their undefeated record intact against the eight-ranked Oklahoma Sooners just took a bit of a hit. Running back and one of Notre Dame’s most explosive playmakers, George Atkinson III, won’t be in the lineup tonight against the Sooners. Atkinson, according to ESPN, did not make the trip to Norman because of flu-like symptoms.
The sophomore back leads the team in yards per carry as he is averaging an impressive 8.1 and also has 301 yards on the ground so far this year on only 37 carries. He also has four scores in 2012 and two of those have come from 55 and 56 yards out. His big play ability is what the Irish, who can struggle at times offensively, will miss the most.
Although Atkinson is the number three Irish back, he is also their number one kick returner. He has run back eight kicks this year for 155 yards and that is where he made a name for himself in 2011 as a true freshman, when he ran back two kicks for touchdowns. Many times in a battle of two great teams it can be a play on special teams that makes the difference between winning and losing.
At 7-0 the Irish are off to their best start since 2002 and if they can run the table they would have a real shot of playing in the national title game. Oklahoma comes in to today’s game with just one tight loss against the also undefeated and currently third-ranked Kansas State Wildcats.
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