In Notre Dame's emotional 22-13 win over USC, senior RB Theo Riddick proved to be more valuable to the Irish than Heisman front-runner Manti Te'o.
Riddick rushed for a career-best 146 yards and a TD against the Trojans, bringing his season total to 880 yards and five TDs. It was a breakthrough performance on offense for a Notre Dame team that averages close to 200 yards rushing per game.
Now that the Irish are likely headed to Miami to play in the BCS championship game against the winner of the SEC title game, offense will be a key factor in defeating an SEC opponent that has no trouble putting points on the scoreboard.
Yes, the Irish have one of the best defenses in the nation, allowing an average of just 10.1 points a game, and with a Heisman-worthy linebacker who has stolen the hearts of college football fans across the country, but their offense has barely squeaked by in several of Notre Dame's victories.
Brian Kelly's defense hasn't been tested much this season. The only game I can really point out is the 30-13 victory over Oklahoma on Oct. 27. The Irish held the Sooners to just 13 points despite Landry Jones throwing for 356 yards.
Oklahoma, which averages close to 40 points a game, was held scoreless for the entire third quarter in that game and had just one TD in the fourth quarter. Te'o contributed to the defensive stand with 11 tackles, one sack and an interception.
It was an impressive outing for Notre Dame's defense against a formidable offense.
The problem is—can the defense mimic that same type of performance against Georgia or Alabama?
Both Georgia and Alabama average just about 38 points a game, and both defenses rank in the FBS top 20—Alabama at No. 1 (10.1 points a game) and Georgia at No. 16 (17.7 points a game).
Te'o is, without a doubt, one of the best players in college football, but at this stage of the game, Riddick is more valuable in the BCS championship game.
For the Irish to come away with a national title, they'll have to score points, and while Te'o does grab interceptions, he's not taking them into the end zone every single time.
Riddick is the guy the Irish will need to step up. Just looking at how effective he was against USC this past Saturday proves his value to the team.
The senior tailback picked up first down after first down, giving his team the advantage in time of possession. The Irish had USC's defense on the field for more than 34 minutes.
That same game plan will need to be utilized against Georgia or Alabama because I'm not so sure Notre Dame's defense will be able to hold their opponent to fewer than 13 points.
It will have to be a combined effort from the defense and offense, but if there's one guy that needs to have a big game, it has to be Riddick. Te'o could have the best game of his career in the championship, but unless there are some points on the board, Notre Dame will likely fall short of a storybook ending.