Flash back to Senior Day 2010: A 4-5 Notre Dame team was staked as a five-point home underdog to a Mountain West Conference team that had lost its previous contest -- by 40 points.
Let's just say not many believed in Kelly's Irish at the time, nor should they have.
Since kickoff that day, Kelly's Irish are 22-5. Defensive coordinator Bob Diaco's unit has held 22 of 27 foes faced to two touchdowns or fewer in that span, and Notre Dame has prevailed in nine of the 12 games played close and late since that crossroads Senior Day victory over #15 Utah.
Inherited talent in need of development; a coach with a proven plan working in congress with a recruiting model to fit; a since-tweaked staff to oversee and adhere to it; a 10-0 record pending as the unwritten ending.
Two years removed from a head-shaking low, Kelly has the program at its highest point since 1993 -- the fated mid-November Saturday Lou Holtz's top-ranked 10-0 Irish entered Senior Day vs. #17 Boston College and the college football universe changed thereafter.
A similar earth-shaking upset won't repeat Saturday vs. Wake Forest, largely because the Demon Deacons aren't in the same stratosphere as that undervalued Boston College team that featured a red-hot quarterback and future two-time Super Bowl winner Tom Coughlin at its controls.
Notre Dame should roll Wake Saturday. If the Irish offense plays poorly, Kelly's crew will merely win comfortably. The only chance for defeat is a repeat of last season's South Florida debacle in which everything that can go wrong, does. Stranger things have happened, but for 24-point underdog Wake Forest to win, they'll have to score more than one touchdown, and that's not happening vs. the best defense South Bend has seen since the championship season of '88.
24 Seasons LaterIts been nearly a quarter century since #1 Notre Dame traveled to #2 USC for a shot at the national title. The Trojans aren't up to that lofty standard -- though their skill position talent might be superior to Rodney Peete's '88 crew -- but current #3 Notre Dame has as much on the line as it did 24 years ago should the Irish win tomorrow vs. Wake Forest.
The ensuing Thanksgiving Saturday date with the Trojans will be the national focal point of a seven-game play-in scenario that includes a trio of contests involving #2 Oregon and two others featuring #1 Kansas State.
The Ducks host Stanford (Saturday night), travel to Corvallis for the Civil War vs. Oregon State (Thanksgiving Saturday, kickoff time pending), and finish one week later with what will be a Pac-12 championship game rematch against either USC or UCLA (if the Ducks defeat Stanford tomorrow night, that is).
The Wildcats travel to high-scoring, defense optional Baylor tomorrow night, enjoy a fortuitous bye week, then host Texas on December 1.
A combined seven games for three undefeated teams to determine this season's matchup in the BCS Title Game. You've heard it hear multiple times but I'll reiterate for new visitors: the trio isn't finishing undefeated, not with a combined two arch-rivals (road games, to boot) and five ranked teams in the way of perfection and BCS anarchy.
Survive and advance…and glance at the scoreboard along the way.
Which reminds me, tomorrow's scoreboard will favor the Irish, providing the program's first undefeated home slate since 1998.