Undefeated Notre Dame has gone a long way in making its case to make an appearance in the BCS National Championship game, but it is a long way from securing that position.
The Irish have established themselves as one of the best teams in the country. Despite detractors who say that they've just barely done enough to win against mediocre teams, the Irish have successfully navigated a diverse schedule that would have caused most teams to stumble along the way.
With one of the best defenses in the country and a coach that has made great decisions all year long in Brian Kelly, there's no debating the Irish as an elite team. However, there are obstacles standing between them and an opportunity to hoist the oh-so-coveted crystal ball at the end of the season.
Barring a ridiculous upset at home against Wake Forest, the Irish should be 11-0 when they travel to Los Angeles to take on the Trojans of USC.
An undefeated Notre Dame team coming to the Coliseum to secure an undefeated season will no doubt create one of the biggest matchups in Jeweled Shillelagh history.
Fortunately, the Irish have already faced one huge road test and passed with flying colors, taking down Oklahoma in Norman 30-13 in a nearly flawless game for the Irish.
Even with that experience, beating the Trojans on the road will be no easy task. Despite three losses on the season, Matt Barkley has been phenomenal this year, and Marqise Lee is as dangerous a receiver as there is in all of college football.
The Irish have been tremendous on defense this year, but they will face their most difficult challenge when they close out the season against the Trojans.
Kansas State Needs to Lose
Unfortunately, the Irish most likely can't make it to the BCS Title game on their own merit.
Despite a schedule that looked brutal at the beginning of the season, the Irish opponents haven't lived up to expectations.
Wins over Michigan and Michigan State aren't as valuable as they appeared to be at the beginning of the season. The Irish find themselves behind Oregon and Kansas State, who have played impressive schedules in their own right and have the advantage of being ahead already.
With Oregon looking pretty unstoppable and having the opportunity to make an extra statement in a conference championship game, the Irish really need Baylor or Texas to beat the Wildcats.
Focus against Wake Forest
As great as the Irish have been all season, the tendency to play down to opponents is undeniable.
The Irish nearly dropped an overtime game to a mediocre Pittsburgh team. They went down to the wire against BYU and even allowed Boston College to stay in the game a little longer than most Irish fans would have liked.
With everything that's on the line, the Irish can't afford to lose focus at home against Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons are 5-5 on the season and haven't registered any wins that really show they have a chance in this one.
However, that doesn't mean they should take them lightly. A close win won't do the Irish any good with the voters and ultimately could hurt them in the BCS standings. The Irish need to win in convincing fashion without looking ahead to USC.