Perhaps the most commonly discussed topic during Notre Dame's run to a 10-0 record and Top Five BCS ranking has been head coach Brian Kelly's handling of his quarterbacks.
Prior to the commencement of the 2012 season, Kelly, much to the contentment of Irish fans, tabbed Everett Golson as his starting quarterback, effectively ripping the nationally scrutinized job from incumbent starter Tommy Rees.
Despite the swap in quarterbacks, both Golson and Rees have been contributors to Notre Dame's prosperity during the 2012 campaign.
How has Kelly's management of both Golson and Rees benefited Notre Dame this season?
Let's have a look.
I never thought that baseball terms would spill over into the world of football, but they have.
Beginning with Notre Dame's nerve-wracking 20-17 victory over Purdue, junior quarterback Tommy Rees has come to be known as the Irish's closer, as he entered the game late in the fourth quarter to lead his team to the dramatic victory.
Rees also relieved Everett Golson to lead Notre Dame to victories over Michigan and Stanford. Those three games in which Rees served as closer resulted in three Notre Dame wins by a combined total of 17 points.
The 6'2", 210-pound, Lake Forest, Ill., native has displayed his incredible poise and determination in leading the Irish to each nail-biting victory. And as much as many Notre Dame fans hate to admit, their beloved Irish wouldn't be undefeated without Rees' heroic performances this season.
During Notre Dame's disheartening 8-5 finish to the 2011 season, many people—myself included—spent time watching Everett Golson's high school highlight tapes that are readily available on YouTube.
Visions of Golson slicing apart defenses both through the air and on the ground for the Irish as he did against his high school competition had Irish eyes smiling, despite the fact that Golson wouldn't be stuffing the stat sheet during his redshirt freshman season.
The overwhelming majority of first-year starting quarterbacks require a season's worth of experience before displaying a comfort level that allows them to change the play at the line of scrimmage, dissect and diagnose coverages, recognize blitz packages, etc.
Golson is well on his way to becoming proficient in each of those areas, which paints a bright picture of the future of Brian Kelly's offense.
Upon his arrival at Notre Dame in January 2011, Everett Golson's physical abilities went without question.
He was, perhaps, the most athletic quarterback on campus since Arnaz Battle (who was later switched to wide receiver) or Jarious Jackson. It was quite a strange sight, after the Irish had gone through a period of pocket passers that began with Brady Quinn and ended with Tommy Rees.
However, Golson faced a steep learning curve that he is still progressing along. Head coach Brian Kelly is the main source of wisdom that Golson turns to, but Tommy Rees also provides a wealth of knowledge that has proven invaluable during Golson's maturation process.
The relationship that the two have developed will be remembered as a critical aspect of Golson's journey.
Not many teams in college football are able to enjoy the luxury of possessing a backup quarterback who has amassed a record of 13-4 when tabbed as a starter.
Well, Notre Dame does, and it has paid dividends this season.
Tommy Rees has played well enough when called upon this season to lead the Irish to victories. In his lone start of the 2012 season, Rees led the Irish to a 17-14 victory over BYU while Everett Golson recovered from a concussion suffered the week before against Stanford.
While Rees doesn't possess the same type of athletic ability that Golson provides, he plays well enough for the offense to put a sufficient amount of points on the board.
Last season, opposing defenses knew they could afford to drop eight in coverage because Tommy Rees presented no threat as a runner.
Those were frustrating times that led us to watch Everett Golson's aforementioned highlight tapes over and over and over again. My, how the 2012 season has been so drastically different. Opposing defenses are now forced to respect Notre Dame's quarterback, as Golson has shown the ability to beat teams not only with his arm, but with his feet as well.
When plays have broken down, Golson has shown his scrambling ability that makes him such a dangerous quarterback. Brian Kelly has also designed option runs for Golson, which the young quarterback ran to near perfection against Boston College last Saturday.
And each time Golson does so, the frustrations of the 2011 season drift further and further into the rear view mirror.