The Notre Dame Fighting Irish were able to move up the rankings this week without taking the field, which should tell you the kind of season they are having right now. But for all the current excitement in South Bend, the push towards the BCS doesn't officially begin until this week's game against Miami.
September was a great warm-up act for Notre Dame. Now the Irish have to show the world that it wasn't a fluke brought on by playing overrated competition, which is what some could construe it as right now.
That's not meant to sound like the Irish are a bad team or one unworthy of being where they are. Certainly, that defense looks and plays as fast and furious as any unit outside of Tuscaloosa, Alabama right now.
Star linebacker Manti Te'o just graced the cover of Sports Illustrated, and deservedly so. He is the glue that holds everything on that defense together and a sure-fire first-round pick in April's NFL Draft.
But let's see what the offense can do when it has to come from behind. Maybe that moment won't come. Maybe this defense is so good that the Irish will lead every game for the rest of the season and be crowned BCS champions.
The odds are severely stacked against them, as they would be against any team striving for perfection. If that happens, you are talking about one of the most legendary squads in the history of college football.
But first, let's see how they handle themselves against a quarterback who doesn't hand them interceptions on a silver platter time and time again. Let's see how they do against an offense that ranks inside the top 40 in passing yards and doesn't have to rack up wins against the likes of Eastern Kentucky, Marshall, VMI and Massachusetts.
September went about as well as anyone could have predicted for the Irish. They got all the momentum they needed to make a BCS push. Now, starting on Saturday, October 6, we are going to see Notre Dame's resolve get tested as this team enters the real part of its schedule.
Miami, like Michigan, Michigan State and Purdue, has been racking up the wins and piling up the stats against teams like Boston College, Bethune-Cookman and North Carolina State. We are going to see exactly what the Hurricanes are made of, too.
For the Irish, though, this game is the start of their season. They get Miami on a neutral field—well, as neutral as Chicago can be given its proximity to South Bend. After that, they are at home against Stanford and BYU before traveling to Oklahoma.
That November 3 game against Pittsburgh doesn't look like as much of a cakewalk as it did two weeks ago, though I don't think a 45-point win over Gardner-Webb signals that the Panthers are back.
We have to see how the Irish respond in those games. We have to see how Everett Golson and/or Tommy Rees handle themselves when faced with the pressure to put up 10-14 points in a hurry.
A BCS run is more than just a pipe dream for the Irish at this stage of the game, as evidenced by their position in the AP and USA Today rankings. But we don't know how good or bad they really are just based on what happened in September.
The Irish's season begins in earnest this Saturday. The road will continue to get more and more winding with each passing week before they hit last the straightaway—at USC on November 24.
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