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September 27, 2013

Saturday’s best battle will be an interior one

NORMAN — There are dozens of obstacles Oklahoma will face Saturday against Notre Dame. But the biggest in terms of priorities and sheer size will be right in front of them all afternoon at Notre Dame Stadium.

The first thing the Sooners must do is figure out a way to block Fighting Irish nose guard Louis Nix III.

That bit of information didn’t catch OU center Gabe Ikard by surprise. He’s known for 11 months that his first trip to Notre Dame Stadium since he was a recruit at Bishop McGuinness High School in Oklahoma City wouldn’t be easy.

Ikard spent three-and-a-half hours in a grudge match with Nix last season when the teams played at Owen Field. Nix left an indelible impression that had Ikard planning for Round 2 for months.

“He's one of those guys that you can just tell how strong and talented he is on the tape. Last year was certainly the biggest challenge of my season,” Ikard said. “Excited to block the best in the country. He's definitely that, so we've got to prepare for him and the rest of that defense. Got to study a lot of film and get ready for a big challenge.”

It’s challenging because players like Nix don’t come around in college football very often. Sure, there are 300-pound players on every BCS roster. But Nix is 342 pounds and can move.

The impact he has on games isn’t easily explained on the statistics sheet. Nix had four tackles in last year’s meeting and none of those stops were for losses. Through four games this season, he’s only been credited with 14 stops.

But it’s the runs that he’s forced to the outside, the pockets he collapsed when a quarterback is trying to throw and the runs between the guards that were simply never called that best illustrate Nix’s impact.

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