If Notre Dame wants a shot at the BCS Championship Game, it needs a blowout win versus Wake Forest this week.
The two big reasons are simple.
The BCS poll has been fairly kind to Notre Dame this year. The Irish had a firm lead on the No. 3 spot until their spotty win against Pittsburgh in Week 9.
That just happened to be the week Oregon had its shootout with USC. And as a result of the drastically different stat lines (versus drastically different levels of competition) the Ducks got the nod at No. 3 while the Irish fell to No. 4
With three unbeatens left to leap frog, it seemed like dreams of a championship bid were dust in the wind for ND.
Then Alabama lost.
So now Oregon has a firm grasp on No. 2, but nipping at their heels is No. 3 Notre Dame.
With 0.101 points of a difference between Notre Dame and Oregon, the Fighting Irish are still very much in this thing. While the human polls love Oregon (No. 1 in both), the BCS computers love Notre Dame.
That means Notre Dame's BCS dreams rest on the shoulders of those human polls. And right now—with Oregon and Kansas State and No. 1 and No. 2—those humans love offense.
So the goal for the Irish becomes simple. They've got the defense thing down, now it's time to wow with their offense.
Unfortunately for Notre Dame, that's been a challenge all season long. While they have a couple blowouts (Navy and Miami come to mind), the Irish have mostly stumbled against weaker competition.
ND failed to score more than 30 points against Purdue, Pittsburgh and Boston College, averaging 23.3 points between those three games. Combined, those teams have a record of 10-20
The team has averaged just 26.1 points per game on the season, and has failed to score more than 20 points twice.
Inversely, Oregon and KSU average a combined 48.5 points per game.
Oregon has yet to scorer fewer than 42 points this season, while KSU has been held under 30 only three times.
The Irish need another big dominating offensive win. With lowly Wake Forest (5-5, 78th in the FBS in yards allowed per game) traveling to South Bend, there's no better time than the present.
The other argument here is that Notre Dame could use some confidence.
Will Notre Dame crack the top two in the polls by season's end?
ND's last game of the season comes against No. 21 USC. Never during this season have the Irish faced an offense as high-powered as the Trojan's.
If the defense struggles, the Irish will have to find a way to keep pace on offense. Given the way they've been playing of late, that could be a struggle.
But if they get the cylinders moving this week against Wake Forest, the hope would be that they stay just as hot for their trip to California.
It is true that with their level of competition (Stanford, BYU, Oklahoma) the Irish deserve more respect for what they've done this season. Especially with their huge 10-0 turnaround from last year.
But until the playoff system gets implemented, these are the things Notre Dame has to deal with.
If that's the case, then the goal becomes simple for its last two games of the season. Win, and win big, especially against it's lesser competition.
Unfortunately for Wake Forest, that means them.