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State of the Irish – USC

Nov 27, 2012, 8:42 AM EDT

(AP Photo/Danny Moloshok) AP

We are back … back to the National Championship!! How sweet this is. When I look back at what this season has encompassed it has been quite remarkable. The Irish have hosted College GameDay, have been the ABC prime-time game four times, have risen to #1 in the polls and the BCS, have been on the cover of Sports Illustrated twice, have completed an undefeated regular season and now will be playing in Miami for a national championship. As of right now there are no more boxes left unchecked. There is no better way this season could have unfolded.

The Irish are now primed for a showdown with the SEC champion for all the marbles. They have their chance to show the nation who they really are. Even though Notre Dame has gone through an incredibly deep schedule and has played at the Coliseum and in Norman, the Irish still have a plethora of doubters. Instead of sitting here and trying to convince anyone that the Irish can compete with the SEC, I would rather just wait until Jan. 7th when this team goes out and shows what they can do. They look like an SEC team with a stout defense and a stable of running backs and now they are poised to face one for the national championship. What more could anyone ask for? Hey doubters, here come the Irish. Don’t flinch!

Back to the main point of the blog, here are three things I learned about the Notre Dame football team this week:

1) Year three at Notre Dame is special: For the great Notre Dame coaches, their third year in South Bend has been special. Frank Leahy started the tradition by winning the national championship in his third year at the helm of the Fighting Irish football program. Then Ara Parseghian did the same. And so did Dan Devine. And for good measure, Lou Holtz took home the national championship in his third year as well. But don’t worry, Brian Kelly isn’t new to having success in his third year as a head coach. He led the Cincinnati Bearcats to a 12-0 regular season in his third and final year.

2) Theo Riddick was unstoppable against the Trojans: You only had to take one look at Theo Riddick’s jersey at the end of the game to tell that Riddick left it all on the field for his team. Riddick could not be stopped all night. He turned a number of plays that should have been stopped for a loss into several yard gains. He was dominant both rushing and catching the ball. He almost looked like a wide receiver out there – oh wait, that’s right he was – who ever questioned that Kelly didn’t know everything. The Irish will need that kind of performance in Miami, but from the way it looks, Theo is going to be right up to the challenge. For now, pray for the student manager that has to clean that jersey!

3) Irish defense doesn’t give up an inch never mind a yard: According to ESPN statistics, you will most likely move backwards once you get in goal-to-go situation against Notre Dame. The Irish defense has given up -28 rushing yards and -5 total yards in such situations. Both of those statistics lead the nation and demonstrate the Irish’s relentless defensive philosophy. Against the Trojans the Irish stayed true to form as they were backed up to the half-yard line and stopped USC on four consecutive plays. If you are an ND opponent, you better score before you get into a goal-to-go situation because once you get into such a situation, you are only going to move backwards.

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