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CHRIS DUFRESNE / ON COLLEGE FOOTBALL

USC needs to root for the enemy Notre Dame up until it plays them

No one thinks the unexciting Irish can get to the national title game this way, but its importance to the chase is evident as it goes to Norman to play Oklahoma next Saturday and Trojans on Nov. 24.

October 20, 2012|Chris Dufresne

No one seriously believes Notre Dame can get to the national title game with eek-out victories over Purdue and Brigham Young parlayed with replay-reviewed goal-line stands against Stanford.

Only the Southeastern Conference scores near-pointless points for hair-raising defense combined with offense that turns your eyelids to anvils.

"It's just who we are," Notre Dame Coach Brian Kelly half-apologized after Saturday's 17-14 win over BYU. "Embrace who we are, I guess is what I'm saying."

Good luck shoveling that malarkey.

It's one thing for Louisiana State to stay in the title hunt with its quarterback throwing for 97 yards. Florida also doubled down on its No. 2 BCS position with quarterback Jeff Driskel averaging 5.8 yards per completion for a whopping 93 yards.

Divided by four, that's 23.25 passing yards per quarter.

But those were SEC wins, against other SEC teams.

Notre Dame will never, ever get away with this.

The team's importance to the title chase, however, should not be underestimated.

The Fighting Irish are still a critical bartering chip for one-loss Oklahoma and USC.

The Sooners and Trojans, with weekend leisure time on their hands, could openly cheer for Notre Dame.

Oklahoma was playing chess against Charlie and his checkers (Kansas), while USC hosted something called "Colorado" at the Coliseum.

A Notre Dame home defeat to BYU would have been devastating to the two schools that fully expect to pile-drive the Irish in coming weeks.

Oklahoma, already saddled with a home loss against Kansas State, was praying Notre Dame would be undefeated when the Irish visit Norman next week.

This week's BCS No. 9 Sooners, thankfully, got their granted wish as the Irish rallied back to defeat Provo's promise providers.

Don't get the wrong idea: Notre Dame has a solid team, with a stellar defense and a chance to someday again become a major player.

Yet, only a leprechaun would believe 7-0 Notre Dame can now go win at Norman on its way to a season-ending closeout victory at USC.

It is only muddling the message to mention Notre Dame has history on its side. The Irish are 8-1 all time against Oklahoma and have never lost in Norman (Oklahoma's lone series triumph was at Notre Dame in 1956).

You could also get nostalgic and remind the "post-Eisenhower" generation it was Notre Dame that snapped Oklahoma's 47-game winning streak and handed Oklahoma its last loss before the streak.

In modern times, however, Oklahoma has been No. 1 a record 20 times in the BCS standings (Notre Dame has never reached the tippy top). Oklahoma also has played in four BCS title games since Notre Dame won its last national title in 1988.

Of course, USC is fantasizing Notre Dame will go into Norman next week and bend the Sooners into a Switzer pretzel.

USC is No.10 in the BCS standings and needs to impress voters with victories over good teams from here until early December.

The Trojans have been assured now Oregon will come to the Coliseum on Nov. 3 ranked in the top three.

If you think what USC did to Colorado on Saturday was ugly, wait until Oregon gets through with the Buffaloes next week in Eugene.

Or, maybe Chip Kelly will take his foot off Ralphie's throat the way he did Thursday against Arizona State after opening a 43-7, second-quarter lead.

USC still has to navigate next week's game at Arizona, but Oregon has done its job in making Nov. 3 an almost-epic matchup.

Think about how much more worked up USC will be Nov. 3 against Oregon if Notre Dame has defeated Oklahoma next Saturday.

The Irish are already No. 5 in the BCS, and close the post-Oklahoma stretch against Pittsburgh, Boston College and Wake Forest before heading to Los Angeles.

Rooting for your enemies, until you play them, is part of college football's storied tradition.

For a deep Trojans thinker, the only thing better than USC being 10-1 on Nov. 24 is Notre Dame being 11-0.

It makes your post-victory BCS argument on national television so much more convincing.

It would be just like those land-jumper Sooners, though, to get their hooks into Notre Dame first.

There is nothing in the hard drive to even suggest Notre Dame can survive one, let alone both, of these treacherous trips.

That's like thinking Kansas State could go to West Virginia and make (John) Heisman candidate Geno Smith look like a (Pop) Warner candidate.

What, Kansas State thrashed West Virginia, 55-14?

Well, never mind, that had to be an aberration and has nothing to do with our Sultans of South Bend.

Notre Dame is plucky, to be sure, but can't really get away with grinding out ugly, piecemeal wins, week after week.

Can it?

Notre Dame's Tommy Rees completed less than 50% of his passes, for 117 yards, against BYU.

He must have thought he got lost and was somewhere in the SEC.

Kelly, as he should, ran as quickly as he could to the spin room.

"There are lots of teams around the country that have made their programs on winning 7-6 and 13-7," Kelly said in a not-so-veiled shot at the SEC.

Notre Dame, unfortunately, lacks the public-bidding power of Verne Lundquist and Gary Danielson.

Florida on Saturday had only 109 more total yards than penalty yards (183 to 79).

Yet, the Gators somehow beat South Carolina, 44-11.

Wasn't it gorgeous?

That is the height of the bar, Notre Dame.

Goodness gracious, though, the Irish couldn't possibly be there yet.

chris.dufresne@latimes.com

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