The Notre Dame Fighting Irish had the luxury of resting while enjoying a bye week that saw their path to the BCS National Championship get a little easier.
The No. 10 Irish saw several teams in front of them either lose or struggle against teams they were expected to handle. Also, their remaining schedule does not seem quite as imposing as it once did.
Notre Dame will undoubtedly jump over No. 8 Stanford, which was upset by the Washington Huskies, and it has to be narrowing the gap, if not surpassing, Georgia and LSU.
No. 5 Georgia squeaked out a 51-44 win over an unranked Tennessee team, and No. 3 LSU looked completely uninspired while beating Towson—yeah, it's a real college—38-22.
That is the same Towson team that was handled by 20 against Kent State in its opener.
Notre Dame is going to need a few more teams to stumble before it will get a crack at one of the coveted top two spots, but this is a long season, and if the Irish can manage to navigate their schedule without suffering a loss, they will be in excellent shape to battle for the national championship.
And to that end, their chances of pulling that off are looking increasingly promising.
The Irish have just three games left this season against teams that are ranked in this week's poll: No. 8 Stanford, No. 16 Oklahoma and No. 13 USC.
As we mentioned above, the Cardinal lost to Washington this week, and they only scored 13 points while doing so. There was nothing about that offensive performance that indicated they would be able to move the ball against the Irish defense.
And what does all of this say about USC? Stanford bullied it right off the field, while the Cardinal proved to be a team that couldn't out-physical a Huskies squad whose defense has been getting shredded for years.
You now have to be feeling pretty good about the Irish's chances versus USC.
That leaves us with No. 16 Oklahoma. It also had a bye this week, but it entered the bye off a disappointing 24-19 loss to Kansas State. It certainly does not look unbeatable.
Sure, a lot of things will have to fall the Irish's way for them to land them in the championship game, but it was just a few weeks ago that an undefeated season was out of all minds except those belonging to the most passionate homers.
All of a sudden, that is a much more reasonable hope.
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