Alabama head coach Nick Saban
This time last week, Alabama was on the outside looking in to the BCS Championship Game party.
After Baylor throttled Kansas State in Waco, Texas and Stanford shocked Oregon in Eugene, Oregon, Alabama quickly regained control of its BCS destiny, earning the No. 2 spot in the most recent BCS Standings, one spot behind Notre Dame.
If you're Alabama, that's exactly the way you like it.
Of the three teams ahead of Alabama in last week's standings, the Fighting Irish are the least complete of the three.
The Fighting Irish have ascended to the top spot in the standings thanks to a stingy defense, a schedule that isn't as strong as it looked preseason and a whole lot of luck.
Had it not been for an early whistle on the potential game-tying run in overtime versus Stanford or a remarkably weak pass interference call in the end zone against Pitt, then Brian Kelly's crew wouldn't be in this spot.
Luck of the Irish, indeed.
It looks like that luck will continue this weekend against USC, who will start Max Wittek at quarterback in place of star signal-caller Matt Barkley.
Just the way Alabama wants it.
In order to make the BCS National Championship Game, the Crimson Tide must beat Auburn and Georgia. If that road leads to a meeting with Notre Dame, the Bulldogs would serve as the biggest hurdle for the Tide between now and their third title in four years.
Assuming Notre Dame wins on Saturday, who is Alabama's toughest remaining test?
Offensively, Notre Dame isn't going to scare anyone, much less an Alabama team that currently ranks second in the nation in total defense, giving up just 240.1 yards per game. The Crimson Tide has been exposed a bit lately by LSU and Texas A&M; but if you think that head coach Nick Saban and defensive coordinator Kirby Smart can't come up with a scheme to slow down Notre Dame with a month to prepare, you're kidding yourself.
Don't forget, this is the same fighting Irish team that couldn't top the 400-yard mark against Purdue and Boston College.
The chips have certainly fallen in Alabama's favor. Had it been Kansas State or Oregon that remained unbeaten, Alabama may be worried. But there's a reason that Las Vegas oddsmakers agree that Georgia and Alabama would be favored over the Irish in the BCS National Championship Game.
Georgia is Alabama's toughest test en route to the crystal football, not Notre Dame.