Nobody was a bigger winner in Week 12 of the college football season than the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, but there's a formidable opponent in the USC Trojans standing in the way of them and a BCS National Championship Game appearance.
With three undefeated teams—Kansas State, Oregon and Notre Dame—still in the hunt for the title heading into Saturday, the Fighting Irish were the only ones left standing after improbable losses.
Heisman favorite Collin Klein threw three untimely interceptions as the Wildcats suffered a 52-24 beatdown at the hands of the Baylor Bears, a crushing blow to their title hopes with just two weeks left in the season .
Additionally, the Oregon Ducks dropped an overtime thriller to Stanford, 17-14, as the high-flying Chip Kelly offense couldn't get going and notched its lowest scoring total in years.
With this freak weekend and a looming matchup against USC being the only thing standing between them and Miami, Notre Dame is a shoo-in for a national championship appearance. Right?
At 7-4, it's certainly hard to peg the USC Trojans as the presence that they were at the beginning of the season. Regardless of their win/loss record, the Trojans are dangerous enough to top any team in college football.
After losing to UCLA this past weekend, the Trojans are officially out of the running for the Pac-12 championship. Thus, the late-season showdown with Notre Dame is much more than the tune-up that it usually is.
Obviously heading to a disappointing bowl game, this is USC's chance to make a mark on the 2012 college football slate. Once pegged as the national title favorite, they've certainly dropped the ball and nothing would make up for such a season like bouncing a rival out of the national championship picture.
USC may not be a sound team defensively, but the Irish don't exactly have an unstoppable offense. Notre Dame ranks just 74th in points per contest.
I'll take Notre Dame's defense over this year's USC offense any day, but don't be surprised if the Trojans can have some success on offense—with or without Matt Barkley.
Sure, the possibility of playing without Barkley could stifle the Trojan passing attack, but USC still boasts one of the deepest rosters in the country and has playmakers aplenty at each position.
In no way am I predicting that the Trojans will shock the world and take the Fighting Irish out of the title game scenario.
But overlooking USC at a time like this, as a coach, player or just college football watcher, would be nothing short of idiotic.
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