The Fighting Irish are on the brink of landing a spot in the BCS title game, but a weak secondary may be the reason Notre Dame's magical season falls short of glory.
As a unit, Notre Dame's defense is one of the best in the country, allowing an average of 11.1 points per game. However, some lax coverage in the passing game has allowed some big performances by opposing quarterbacks.
In Notre Dame's marquee matchup of the season with Oklahoma, the secondary allowed Landry Jones to complete 35 passes for 356 yards and a TD. The Fighting Irish still came out on top 30-13, but Jones had no trouble spreading the ball to his receivers.
In a thrilling 20-13 OT win over Stanford, Notre Dame's secondary allowed Josh Nunes to complete 12 passes for 125 yards and two TDs in what could have easily amounted to a loss for the Fighting Irish.
This past Saturday, Notre Dame picked up a 21-6 win over Boston College but allowed Chase Rettig to complete 27 passes for 247 yards.
None of these performances scream Heisman quarterback, but those yards and completions add up. All season, the Notre Dame secondary has allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete a little less than 60 percent of their passes on average for a grand total of 1,993 yards.
So, what's the point?
The point is Notre Dame's season isn't over yet. Don't chalk up 12-0 for the Fighting Irish just yet because two games still remain on the schedule. Next week's matchup with a Wake Forest team that hasn't accomplished much this season isn't something to worry about for Notre Dame, but a Nov. 24th meeting with Matt Barkley and USC is.
Barkley hasn't had his greatest season throwing the football, but the senior quarterback is still blowing up defenses statistically speaking. On average, Barkley has racked up a little more than 300 yards passing per game while completing nearly 65 percent of his passes.
Even in losses, Barkley has come up big in passing yardage and TDs. If Notre Dame isn't careful, Barkley could spoil BCS dreams in South Bend.
Barkley will be the most accomplished passer that Notre Dame's secondary has seen all year. His 33 TD passes and 2,972 yards passing are the best stats this Fighting Irish defense has faced.
Not to mention the fact that if Notre Dame can make it to the BCS title game, they'll have the more difficult task of facing either Collin Klein or Marcus Mariota, assuming that either Kansas State or Oregon makes it to the title game as well.
Those two quarterbacks are in a league of their own in terms of playmakers under center. Notre Dame's secondary will be no match for either quarterback if they can't even get past Barkley.
Nov. 24th will be the secondary's first and final true test of the season as they inch closer toward their season-long goal.
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