On paper, Week 12 of the college football season didn’t look like much. It lacked meaningful matchups, and we thought we were in for a slow day before the post-Thanksgiving madness.
Oh, the madness came early.
At the beginning of the day, Notre Dame needed help. The Fighting Irish were on the outside looking in, sitting comfortably (well, uncomfortably) at No. 3 in the BCS and very unlikely to jump the unbeaten teams in front of them.
With Wake Forest on tap, they took care of their own business early. Irish fans were treated to a stress-free game (for once), and Notre Dame cruised to a 38-0 victory at home.
Eleven down, one to go.
The two teams in front of them were double-digit favorites against capable teams, although the Irish would need a miracle of sorts to get into the national title game.
Oh, they got one. In fact, they got two. What a difference 12 hours makes. Oh, and the team's star player, linebacker Manti Te'o, suddenly feels very much a part of the Heisman conversation.
With Kansas State's loss to Baylor—Kansas St. being the No. 1 team in the BCS—and an overtime Stanford win over No. 2 Oregon, Notre Dame is the team to beat. The Irish will be No. 1 in the country for the first time since 1993, and they are now one win away from a shot at the national title.
To put this all in perspective, Notre Dame’s starting quarterback wasn’t exactly throwing passes just yet last time this happened:
Last time Notre Dame was No. 1, Irish QB Everett Golson was 10 1/2 months old— Brett McMurphy (@McMurphyESPN) November 18, 2012
Just like that, the script has flipped, and a game against USC is all that stands between Brian Kelly’s squad and Miami—the championship hub in early January. One week and two games, that's all it took.
Adding some intrigue to a day already loaded with it—especially for Notre Dame fans—Matt Barkley’s status for next week could be in doubt. Barkley was hit hard late in his team’s loss against UCLA, and reports are surfacing that he might have an injured throwing shoulder. He left Saturday’s game in a sling.
This, of course, would drastically change the way we view next week’s key game in Southern California, although it’s far too early to speculate on his status at this point.
And, more importantly, there’s nothing to speculate about for the Irish. Win and they are in. It’s that simple, although it looked far from it just a short while ago.
The rest of the BCS picture is a giant mess—well, kind of—and the SEC championship game could very well serve as a semifinal for it all.
If the Georgia Bulldogs and Alabama Crimson Tide win out, they will meet in Atlanta on Dec. 1 for SEC bragging rights and so much more. The winner of this game—assuming they both get there with one loss—will then have a shot to play for it all.
You thought Notre Dame got help today? The SEC got an even bigger, unexpected boost.
This boost could potentially boil down to more than just Alabama and Georgia, although again, we’re speculating plenty. At this point, we’re able to do just that. If Notre Dame loses to USC, and Florida beats Florida State next week, could we get a potential all-SEC championship game once again?
It’s suddenly a realistic (but still unlikely) scenario. If put in this position, would voters actually allow this to happen, or would they instead manipulate this human element following last year?
Again, it’s hard to determine at this point, and a Notre Dame win next week will put this conversation to rest. A Notre Dame loss, and we’ll be sorting through teams with at least one loss with a little help from the computers.
And you think things are chaotic now?
Also, I have to imagine Ohio State wishes it sat out the Gator Bowl instead of having to sit out of the postseason this year. Urban Meyer’s unbeaten bunch would be a Michigan win and a Big Ten championship game victory away from its own title shot. What if…
In less than one week, half of college football’s ultimate showcase could be spoken for. This much we know. Notre Dame could clear up this picture a great deal with a victory against a USC team simply looking for the finish line.
As we also know, however, this is far from a given. And after a Saturday like the one we just endured, it would be reckless to assume anything at this point.
Having fun yet?