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Top Notre Dame playmaker out for game at Oklahoma

The Fighting Irish to be without Atkinson III. Dave Miller

Print This October 27, 2012, 01:10 AM EST

No. 5 Notre Dame, off to its best start at 7-0 since 2002, will try to knock off No. 8 Oklahoma in Norman on Saturday night without one of its best offensive weapons.

According to Matt Fortuna of ESPN.com, George Atkinson III did not make the trip from South Bend because of flu-like symptoms.

The sophomore has rushed for 301 yards on just 37 attempts this fall, averaging a team-best 8.1 yards per carry. He has four touchdowns this season, including two scores of over 50 yards. He's a big play waiting to happen, and it's a tough blow to the offense despite the fact that he is considered the No. 3 tailback on the depth chart behind Cierre Wood and Theo Riddick.

Perhaps most devastating for the Irish is the fact that Atkinson is the team's top kick returner, as he's run back eight kicks for 155 yards this season. As a true freshman last year he returned two kickoffs for scores.

So a difficult game just became much tougher for head coach Brian Kelly and the Fighting Irish.

Email dave.miller@nationalfootballpost.com or follow me on Twitter at Miller_Dave

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