Notre Dame vs. Michigan State: Irish Squad Proves to Be Legit BCS Contender

Amy DaughtersFeatured ColumnistSeptember 16, 2012

EAST LANSING, MI - SEPTEMBER 15:  TJ Jones #7 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish celebrates with John Goodman #81 after Goodmans first quarter touchdown catch while playing the Michigan State Spartans at Spartan Stadium Stadium on September 15, 2012 in East Lansing, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

After starting the 2011 season 1-2 and basically dropping out of the national spotlight, Notre Dame has burst onto the 2012 scene as a 3-0 team that looks prepared to make a run.

The capstone of the three-win streak came Saturday evening in the form of a decisive 20-3 win over No. 10 Michigan State on the road in East Lansing.

Even though the Irish were just 1-14 on third-down conversions, they managed to rack up 300 total yards against one of the best defenses in the land, proving that just maybe they can score enough points to win big games.

The low-key star of the game was sophomore Notre Dame QB Everett Golson, who went 14-of-32 for 178 yards and one TD and then added seven yards of rushing and an additional score to sweeten to pot.

Defensively, the Irish dazzled by holding the Spartans to only 237 yards of total offense and only 50 yards on the ground.

Notably, Spartan standout Le’Veon Bell was held to only 77 yards of rushing, a number that was detracted from by QB Andrew Maxwell’s negative-28 yards of rushing.

Perhaps the most impressive part of the Irish performance Saturday evening was the fact that they didn’t commit a single turnover; a huge deal for a team tied for No. 110 nationally in turnovers in 2011 with 29 balls lost either to INT or fumble.

So, does a big win over Navy, a narrow victory over Purdue and then a decisive triumph over No. 10 Michigan State mean that Notre Dame will finish No. 8 or better in the final BCS standings and exercise their automatic tie-in with the big boys?

Well, we know this for sure, the road to glory rolls through South Bend where Michigan, Stanford, BYU, Pitt and Wake Forest will all visit the Irish before November ends.

The path to national prominence also flows through such exotic locales as Chicago, where the Irish will face Miami (Fla.); Norman, Oklahoma; Boston, Massachusetts; and L.A. where the now less-than-perfect Trojans reside.

Indeed, it will be no picnic, especially when you throw in a defense that gave up 17 points to Purdue and an offense that is far from in overdrive.

But despite all the statistics and the less-than-dominant results, this is the first Irish team to start a season 3-0 since 2002.

That was 10 years ago when Notre Dame opened up the season 8-0 under then-coach Tyrone Willingham only to finish 10-3, including a loss to NC State in the Gator Bowl.

Yes, the 2012 Irish are one of only 28 undefeated BCS teams in the land, meaning they really do have a chance to make it back to the BCS for the first time since 2005-06 when they lost to Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl.

Perhaps Notre Dame, like Florida State and Oklahoma, was just waiting until the glare of the spotlight was briefly focused on somebody else before they flourished into a winning program.