- Associated Press - Thursday, September 3, 2015

Texas (6-7 in 2014) at No. 11 Notre Dame (8-5 in 2014), 7:30 p.m. (NBC)

Line: Notre Dame by 9.5.

Series Record: Notre Dame leads 8-2.

WHAT’S AT STAKE

The Fighting Irish, looking to make a run similar to 2012 when they surprised the college football world and played for the national championship, can’t afford an early slip against an unranked team. The Longhorns want to re-establish themselves as an elite team and a win against a ranked team in the season-opener would be a good start.



KEY MATCHUP

Notre Dame QB Malik Zaire vs. LB Malik Jefferson. Jefferson, the standout of the 2015 recruiting class, will be anchoring the Texas defense that will try to contain Zaire, who carried the ball 22 times for 96 yards against LSU in the Music City Bowl in his only previous start.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Texas: WR Marcus Johnson. The Longhorns need a playmaking pass catcher. Johnson had a breakout year in 2013 and then all but disappeared last season. If he can be a reliable target, his speed makes him a touchdown threat every time he touches the ball.

Notre Dame: LB Jaylon Smith. The 6-foot-2, 240-pound junior led the Irish in tackles last season with 112, including 65 solos, after moving from outside to inside. Irish coaches plan to move him around this season to make it more difficult for opponents.

FACTS & FIGURES

Notre Dame is 28-5-1 against current Big 12 teams, its best record against any Power 5 conference. … Notre Dame is 8-2 in its last 10 season-openers, losing to South Florida in 2011 and Georgia Tech in 2007. Texas hasn’t lost an opening game since a 23-20 defeat to North Carolina State in 1999. … Texas rarely starts the season away from home. Saturday night will be just the third road opener for since 1995. … The higher-ranked team is only 2-5 in this series. … Notre Dame stands No. 2 in total victories among college football teams with 882. The Longhorns are a win behind at 881. … Notre Dame is 9-2 in night home games.

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