The 2012 season has been a great run for the Notre Dame football program. They've had a game in Ireland, survived close calls at home over a pair of ranked opponents and are in the Top 5 of the BCS Rankings.
For their season to get much better they will need a win on Saturday against the Oklahoma Sooners.
No. 5 Notre Dame at No. 8 Oklahoma
Where: Oklahoma Memorial Stadium, Norman, Okla.
When: Saturday, Oct. 27 at 8:00 p.m. ET
Spread: Oklahoma -10 (via Bovada)
The Fighting Irish still have a shot at making the National Championship Game. They need to move up three spots to get there, but two of the teams in their way will play each other in the SEC Championship Game if they remain undefeated.
The SEC winner will almost certainly command a spot in Miami. That leaves Oregon and Kansas State standing in Notre Dame's way.
Even if they beat Oklahoma and USC to finish the regular season, the odds are stacked against the Irish.
Kansas State has a smooth run to an undefeated season if it can get past No. 14 Texas Tech on Saturday.
Oregon’s run is a bit more difficult. It still has No. 9 USC and No. 17 Stanford on the schedule.
The Ducks' final regular season game is also problematic for Notre Dame. They face the currently unbeaten Oregon State Beavers. If either of those two teams finish the Pac-12 schedule unbeaten and with the conference title game, it is almost certain they will be playing for a national title.
Even with an undefeated season, the odds are stacked against Notre Dame. However, some analysts believe the Irish will reach the title game.
I asked Bronco Mendenhall if an undefeated Notre Dame team could play for BCS title. He said, "My guess would be that they will get in."— Robbie Bullough (@RobbieBullough) October 26, 2012
Assuming the BYU head coach is correct, let's look at the road ahead for Notre Dame.
The Fighting Irish have two big tests they have to pass if they want to stake a claim to the title game.
Oklahoma has been playing very good football since its close loss to Kansas State five weeks ago.
The Sooners blew out No. 14 Texas Tech and No. 23 Texas by a combined score of 104-41. They dispatched a struggling Kansas team 52-7.
Landry Jones has his offense clicking. He’s completing 63 percent of his passes and has 12 touchdowns to just three interceptions on the season
Jones has averaged 293 yards passing since the loss. “I think we are in a good spot," the quarterback said via ESPN.com.
The key now is to not get complacent, not think we have it all figured out and continue to work, continue to sharpen, continue to do the things that we're supposed to be doing.
I think we've got a shot at this thing.
Damien Williams also has the ground game working well when called upon. He ran for 167 yards against Texas and averaged 5.5 yards per carry in limited duty against Kansas.
The strength of the Sooners plays right into the same for the Irish, though.
Manti Te'o is the standout linebacker in college football. He's led a squad that is yet to allow a rushing touchdown and hasn't surrendered more than 17 points this season.
They have notched 12 interceptions and their secondary will be looking to add to the total off Jones.
The Irish will need to prove they can with with a solid ground game and suspect quarterback play. That attack will work against most really good teams, but Oklahoma is an elite defense.
It will be very difficult to pin a loss on a Top 10 team without a balanced offense.
Perhaps the toughest part of their quest is that if the Irish do beat Oklahoma then they'll have a similar battle against the Southern Cal Trojans to finish the regular season.
The odds are stacked against the Fighting Irish, but fans are enjoying the ride all the same. A win on Saturday should get them to Southern California at 11-0 and prepped for a major BCS game.
A national title match could be out of reach, but that wouldn't be a bad thing for the program.
It is better to win a lesser game and ask "What if?" than to play Alabama and get the answer they don't want.
Darin Pike is a writer for Bleacher Report's Breaking News Team and a Featured Columnist covering the NFL and Seattle Seahawks.
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