NORMAN, Okla. — The words ‘‘Play Like a Champion Today’’ are plastered on the walls leading from the locker room to the field at both No. 5 Notre Dame and No. 8 Oklahoma, a rich piece of tradition the storied programs happen to share.
Come Saturday night, a rare meeting between the schools will test the championship mettle for both the Fighting Irish (7-0) and the Sooners (5-1).
It’s just the second meeting since 1968 in a series that has fallen in Notre Dame’s favor throughout the years. Oklahoma’s only win in nine tries against the Irish came exactly 56 years ago in 1956.
Three times, the Sooners suffered their only loss of a season against Notre Dame, including the end of their NCAA record 47-game winning streak in 1957.
This time, a shot at a championship could be on the line again.
‘‘We’re 7-0 and now we have the chance to be 12-0 and now we have a good team coming up,’’ said Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o, who is garnering Heisman Trophy buzz. ‘‘We can’t look past that and we have to just look at Oklahoma, what they do and work on being 8-0.’’
Coach Bob Stoops didn’t spend much time harping on the historical implications of the rivalry, but his players certainly were made aware that Oklahoma is just 1-8 all-time against Notre Dame.
‘‘That’s all great. It’s unfortunate that that happened, but it’s one of those things where we can’t really worry about that kind of stuff,’’ said center Gabe Ikard, who grew up a bit of a Notre Dame fan at a Catholic high school in Oklahoma City and considered playing for the Irish.
‘‘That makes a great story for the game and it sets it up well, but what it comes down to is two teams playing each other on the field,’’ he said.
Said Sooners safety Javon Harris: ‘‘It’s ancient history. We’re here to try to make history.’’
Seeking its ninth national championship, Notre Dame has built its undefeated start behind Te’o and the nation’s second-stingiest defense, allowing just 9.4 points per game. A bruising running game that produced two 100-yard rushers a week ago has helped overcome uncertainty at quarterback, where sophomore Everett Golson and junior Tommy Rees have split time.
Coach Brian Kelly said Golson will get the start against Oklahoma after sitting out last week’s win against BYU because of lingering issues from a concussion. He called Golson the healthiest he’s been in weeks because of previous shoulder and toe injuries.
Rees relieved Golson to lead Notre Dame to wins against Purdue and Michigan before going all the way against BYU.
Former LSU football standouts Tyrann Mathieu and Jordan Jefferson were released from a Baton Rouge jail Friday after their arrests at Mathieu’s apartment on marijuana charges.
Mathieu, who was a one-time Heisman Trophy finalist, played cornerback until he was dismissed from the team in August after reportedly failing a drug test. Jefferson, a quarterback, has been playing in the Canadian Football League.
They were released along with Derrick Bryant, a former backup safety. A fourth former player arrested in the case, Karnell Hatcher, remained in jail.