Finishing undefeated is about surviving a game or two. In 2009, Alabama survived against Tennessee. In 2005, the USC Trojans had to outperform Fresno State to secure their spot in the title game. A season ago, LSU outlasted Alabama. While it doesn't necessarily mean a title, it does mean a spotless regular season, and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish have survived quite a scare.
Now, after the dust settles on the triple-overtime, 29-26 win over the Pittsburgh Panthers, the real question that remains is what happens to the third-ranked Irish. Pittsburgh is a team that most folks don't respect nationally. Lose to Youngstown State and that will happen.
You look at the teams ahead of the Irish—Kansas State and Alabama—and they both have ranked opponents on the docket Saturday. Throw in fourth-ranked Oregon, and you have the other top-ranked teams playing ranked opponents, while Notre Dame barely skates past a team that's sub-.500 in the Big East.
If you're an Irish fan, expect Notre Dame to fall. It was only .0011 ahead of the Ducks in the BCS standings, and Oregon had a ranked opponent in USC on its schedule going into Saturday night. Oregon was able to take care of business with a 62-51 win, so expect it to jump the Irish regardless of how Notre Dame won the game.
As for what "should" happen in the grand scheme of things: The Irish deserve the benefit of the doubt. They just came off an emotionally charged win and were able to find a way to pull one out against Pittsburgh. Not a great performance, but unlike the Oklahoma State Cowboys from 2011, they did not lose the game in overtime.
A win deserves respect, and a win on the big stage—with the pressure on for the first time in their careers—should be noted.
All the Irish had to do was get out of the game with a "W," and they did it. It wasn't pretty, but for those of us who have been watching Notre Dame all season, pretty is not what we expected. The Irish play ugly football, and Saturday night was no different. So while the play-calling wasn't great and the defense gave up a couple of big plays, the final result was what we've grown to expect in 2012—a win.
The Irish shouldn't tumble, outside of Oregon; if everything holds chalk, don't expect Notre Dame to fall far down the BCS standings. Fourth is still sitting in prime position as we look ahead to Week 11 and the home stretch.