Notre Dame Football: How Irish Have Proved They're Legit Title Contenders
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The Notre Dame Fighting Irish proved doubters wrong once again, putting together an amazing fourth quarter of football to beat the Oklahoma Sooners in Norman. With the win, the Irish improved to a perfect 8-0 and proved they belong in the national championship conversation.
The Irish have now beaten four ranked teams this season. Many people felt the Irish were bound to trip up against a very strong Oklahoma team in a hostile environment, but the Irish dominated the end of the game with an in-sync offense and defense that made huge plays.
If there was any doubt the Irish belonged in the conversation, the win on the road at Oklahoma eliminated those doubts. The Irish scored the game's final 17 points on their way to a 30-13 victory.
The win vaulted Notre Dame to No. 3 in the latest BCS rankings, behind Alabama and Kansas State, but ahead of fellow unbeaten Oregon.
The Notre Dame defense, which is second-best in the country allowing 9.9 points per game, completely shut down the Oklahoma ground game (15 yards), forcing quarterback Landry Jones into 51 passing attempts with no touchdowns and an interception.
The Sooners average 40.1 points per game, but the Irish proved they can stop a prolific offense.
The defense has been great all year, but the offense stepped up in a big way in the fourth quarter. Quarterback Everett Golson's one-yard touchdown run put the Irish ahead for good with 5:05 to play in the game.
Kyle Brindza's 46-yard field goal with 3:22 left extended the lead to 23-13, and Theo Riddick's 15-yard touchdown run with 1:36 left put an exclamation point on a statement win for Notre Dame.
Notre Dame has beaten the likes of Michigan State, Michigan, and Stanford, but the win against the Sooners, a top-10 team, proved they are for real.
Their offensive numbers aren't outstanding like the Oregon team, but they win with an old-fashioned style of football that preaches running the football effectively and playing good defense.
The Irish's next three opponents (Pittsburgh, Boston College, Wake Forest) should be a walk in the park, setting up a showdown at USC on November 24.
The Trojans were the preseason favorites to win it all, but just lost to Arizona to give them two losses and further damage their case for a BCS bowl game. Based on how Notre Dame played at Oklahoma, it is very likely the Irish can beat USC on the road.
If Alabama, Kansas State, Notre Dame, and Oregon all run the table, it will be interesting to see what two teams the computers would pick as 1-2. Alabama seems a lock to get the top spot if they go unbeaten, but the No. 2 team is far from a certainty.
While a four-team playoff was approved this past summer and will start in 2014, it will not solve a potentially huge controversy that could see four unbeaten teams at the end of the regular season that all feel they have a legitimate case to play for the title.
Notre Dame seems to have the most favorable schedule the rest of the way, giving them a shot to win their first national title since 1988.
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