After a nearly perfect Saturday for the Notre Dame football program and its standing in the National Championship picture, the Gators 17-16 escape against South Carolina prevented the Irish from gaining back total control of it's own destiny.
Amazing isn't it?
In an eight-hour span, talk of hopefully finishing in the top-eight of the Bowl Championship Series standings and earning a guaranteed spot in one of the major bowls has been replaced with fodder of the Irish sneaking in the back door of the National Championship game and a possible rematch with Michigan. Upsets of top-10 teams, No. 3 Louisville, No. 4 Texas, No. 5 Auburn and No. 8 California was the help the Irish were looking for.
When the new BCS standings were released Sunday night, the Irish (9-1) jumped from No. 9 to No. 5. USC moved up to No. 3. Friggin Florida is No. 4, while Ohio State and Michigan obviously retained the top-two spots.
Now the Irish can handle it's own business while needing only one more favor to play for all the marbles. Florida State and No. 7 Arkansas should now be Irish fans' second and third favorite teams. They are the formidable foes that stand in the way of friggin Florida and head coach Urban Meyer, who still sees his name and Notre Dame used in the same sentence, playing for the National Championship.
Friggin Florida's victory ruined what basically would've been a four-team playoff to end the season. A college football fan's dream. Though not official, Ohio State would play Michigan in one semifinal this Saturday. The winner of that game would wait to play the winner of the USC-Irish game the following Saturday. The mythical playoffs pending if the Trojans can beat California this weekend.
Jumping friggin Florida if both the Irish and Gators win out in the BCS standings is very unlikely. It's also unlikely that No. 6 Rutgers and Arkansas (you thought Notre Dame's loss was bad to Michigan, remember what USC did to the host Razorbacks) leap the Irish if both teams win out. For precautionary purposes, it'd be nice for ND if No. 8 West Virginia or Syracuse or Cincinnati could beat the Scarlet Nights.
The National Championship race and Heisman hunt are similar situations concerning Notre Dame and quarterback Brady Quinn. The Irish have won seven games in a row to climb back into the title picture since the loss to Michigan, and Quinn has been the reason why, playing very well since his forgettable afternoon against the Wolverines.
Maybe they'll get another chance at Michigan with Quinn holding the Heisman the Wolverines tried to rip away from him.
Like the many top-10 teams that saw title dreams dashed this past weekend, Quinn's Heisman competition has been dropping like flies the last few weeks. The Michigan guys, quarterback Chad Henne and running back Michael Hart have cooled off. As has Northern Illinois running back Garrett Wolfe. Oklahoma's Adrian Peterson went down for the season. West Virginia's Steve Slaton fumbled on the national scene. Texas quarterback Colt McCoy going down against Kansas State hurt his chances. Rutgers' Ray Rice is a the dark-horse.
On top of playing well against Army this Saturday and in the showdown against USC on Nov. 25, Quinn also needs just one more favor to become Notre Dame's eighth Heisman trophy winner. He is hoping the Wolverines can successfully end Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith's chances this Saturday like they nearly did his.
It's like another shot of adrenaline has been injected into the Irish program. Poor Army doesn't stand a chance against Notre Dame this weekend in South Bend. The Irish will be up for senior day.
How up the Irish will be for Army will pale in comparison when the USC game rolls around. The tragic loss to the Trojans last season still stings, and there is no doubt the coaches talk about it, and the players talk about it, itching to get another crack at Pete Carroll's boys. We'll see if Carroll makes a congratulatory trip to the Notre Dame locker room if the Irish can end what could be USC's 32-game home win streak, again if the Trojans beat California this weekend.
Both teams have their flaws, and the game will come down to the game plans of Irish head coach Charlie Weis and Carroll. Carroll hasn't faired well against Weis in the past, and without Heisman winners Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush, his firepower has been depleted. Notre Dame will have to raise it's level of play, since it hasn't faced a team of this caliber since September, but they have two weeks to get it right.
So here it is, play well and beat USC, hope for friggin Florida to finally lose, and wait for a date with either Ohio State or Michigan. The second time around with either team will be a lot more competitive than the first.