The Drive for Five

Notre Dame hasn't won five straight games since the end of the Brady Quinn era. That will change tonight in Soldier Field.

The Drive for Five Notre Dame hasn't won five straight since 2006… Taken singularly, Notre Dame's notable broken streaks affect college football's landscape minimally. Foremost the fan base, the Irish finished September undefeated for the first time in 10 years. They beat rivals Michigan and Michigan State in the same season -- not coincidentally -- for the first time in 10 years.

The end result is a No. 9 ranking with three consecutive profiles games on tap, each against quality foes though Notre Dame will be favored throughout.

Tonight's matchup with Miami offers the program another opportunity to snap a streak as win would give the program five straight for the first time since 2006, Brady Quinn's senior season. Like four straight, five, taken singularly, is not a nationally noteworthy accomplishment. But its part of the process that's changed the line of questioning regarding the program.

Instead of, "Why are we talking about them?" its, "Who can score on that front seven?"

Instead of, "Are we the best 2-2 team in the nation?" its, "When will we trail in a football game again?"

Yes, through one month, Notre Dame is the lone remaining FBS school of 124 not to fall behind in a contest. It beats the 2011 alternative as the only FBS team to suffer more than twice as many turnovers in one month (14) than it gained punt return yards (6).

The Irish will trail at some point soon -- the nature of their consistent schedule suggests it should have happened already. Maybe quick-strike Miami, maybe quality Stanford, maybe lying-in-the-weeds BYU. One of not two of the trio will put a scare into the Irish.

But when will this defensively sound, offensively sporadic squad meet its match? Taken singularly, Notre Dame is better than Miami and Stanford and BYU, just as singularly the Irish were better than Purdue, Michigan State and Michigan.

But beginning with that Week Two battle with the Boilers and ending with a late-October trip to Norman are seven opponents capable of beating 90 percent of the teams in college football. Its a gauntlet that taken as a whole and considering attrition, will be difficult to navigate unscathed.

But Brian Kelly's Irish are halfway there, the recent bye week ideally placed considering the unique challenges September presented. Refreshed, in relative good health, with no excuses.

Notre Dame is a better football team than Miami. In fact, its not close. Miami's cosmetic yardage prior to tonight's tussle is of no consequence to an Irish defense that doesn't often break down mentally, and one that is physically superior up front.

The Irish are vulnerable to defeat because the offense has not yet found its footing. Or, more troubling, maybe it has?

Dating back to Senior Day 2011 the Irish offense has produced the following touchdown totals: 1, 2, 1, 6, 2, 2, 1. The six-spot outlier was the result of an overmatched Academy defense, the type the Irish won't again face this fall.

Tonight's foe has a porous, though athletically dangerous defense. Its an ideal test for Notre Dame's struggling offense, one that Kelly & Co. must pass if it would like breathing room entering the final quarter.

Its doubtful the work-in-progress Irish offense could yet put up a three or four touchdown outing vs. the rest of October's foes. But it will find a way to breech the end zone as such tonight, aiding the defense in the team's fifth straight win to start 2012.

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