I never thought I'd be saying this, but the undefeated edition of Notre Dame's weekly winners and losers is in and ready to be dissected.
The Irish moved to a perfect regular season record of 12-0 after a 22-13 victory over USC at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Saturday evening, which was the Irish's second consecutive victory in as many trips to the City of Angels.
Notre Dame's nine-point victory was stressful at times and downright exhilarating at others, but all that matters to Irish fans is that their team has locked up a spot in the BCS National Championship Game.
But I digress. Let's begin with this week's winners and losers.
Without Theo Riddick, Notre Dame wouldn't have defeated Lane Kiffin's Trojans on Saturday evening. It's really as simple as that.
Riddick was a man among boys, rushing for 146 yards on 20 carries to go along with one score. It was a truly gritty performance, with Riddick avoiding the cute east-west runs and grinding his way north and south.
The Manville, N.J., native's 146 rushing yards were also a personal season high.
Maybe it was Theo Riddick's hot hand. Maybe it was purely a coaching decision. But Cierre Wood's virtual absence from Notre Dame's victory over USC didn't go unnoticed by yours truly.
The senior from Oxnard, Calif., gained a meager 20 rushing yards on eight carries. Wood also hauled in two receptions for 18 yards. After finishing last season as the Irish's leading rusher—Wood accumulated 1,102 yards on 217 carries in 2011—he has regressed to the No. 2 back on the depth chart.
Yet production from Wood against either Georgia or Alabama's defense will be crucial in the BCS National Championship Game.
Notre Dame's offense moves the ball effectively between the 20s, but struggles to score touchdowns inside the red zone—the Irish rank 74th nationally in red-zone offense.
Luckily for Notre Dame, its kicker, Kyle Brindza, came to the rescue against the Trojans.
The sophomore converted 5-of-6 field goal attempts, including a 52-yarder as time expired in the first half that put the Irish ahead 16-10. That score was perhaps the most significant of the game for Brian Kelly and Co.
While Marqise Lee may have lost favor in the Heisman Trophy race prior to his team's loss to Notre Dame over the weekend, a dominating performance against the Irish may have pushed him back into the discussion.
Unfortunately for Lee, that didn't happen.
The sophomore was limited to five receptions for 75 yards and was held scoreless for the first time since the Trojans' 24-14 victory over Washington in Seattle back on October 13.
The third season of any Notre Dame head coach's tenure seems to be the make-or-break point, and boy, has Brian Kelly made it.
Kelly joins former Irish head coaches Ara Parseghian, Dan Devine and Lou Holtz as the only coaches in school history to reach the national championship game in their third seasons on the job.
Pundits, most notably Rick Reilly, said before the season that Notre Dame was a permanent afterthought in college football. Well, Kelly has proven them wrong and made them look embarrassingly foolish by pushing his team from unranked in the preseason to the nation's No. 1 team.
Don't forget that the Irish also rank first in college football's graduation success rate, proving that winning and academics can come hand in hand.
I can't even begin to describe how I would have felt if I was Lane Kiffin when the game clock expired on Saturday evening at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
His Trojans had put the finishing touches on the opposite of what Notre Dame had accomplished this season: USC began the season as the nation's top-ranked team, but will end the season unranked in all polls.
Along the way, minor scandals have plagued his program. Whether it be USC student-managers deflating footballs, shady jersey changes during games or an increasingly negative relationship with the media, Kiffin has cast USC in a bad light during the 2012 season.
And to top it all off, Kiffin may have no choice but to fire his defensive coordinator, who also happens to be his father.