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Dr. Saturday

Notre Dame legitimizes its rise to national prominence with a big win over Oklahoma

Graham Watson
Dr. Saturday

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(AP)

It's been a long time coming, but it's finally fair to say that Notre Dame is back.

I know, I know, the Irish are undefeated and have been back for a couple weeks now, but Saturday's 30-13 victory over Oklahoma was a triumph not many expected and showed that the Irish are ready to take their place on the national stage again.

After some shaky defensive moments during Oklahoma's first drive, Notre Dame's defense clamped down of Oklahoma's high-powered offense and got some well-timed plays on offense to make the game a blowout.

It's been a long time since Notre Dame made the nation believe. The Irish are 8-0 for the first time since 2002 and have put themselves in a position for a BCS bowl game for the first time since the 2006 season. Moreover, the Irish have a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate in linebacker Manti Te'o, who had a fantastic interception Saturday that helped seal the win.

It's funny because at the beginning of the season, a lot of folks thought Notre Dame might be able to get eight wins, just not the first eight. The Irish schedule was billed as the toughest in the country and is still one of the nation's most daunting. No one wanted to give Notre Dame any preseason poll love because the Irish had constantly disappointed and flubbed a game or two they should have won.

But not this year. Even in tight contests and controversial plays, Notre Dame has hitched its wagon to its defense and come out better on the other side.

With Florida's loss to Georgia earlier in the day, the door opens for Notre Dame to make a strong move toward a potential national championship. Currently Alabama, Kansas State and Oregon all sit ahead of Notre Dame in the BCS standings, but none of those teams defeated an opponent ranked in the top 10. That's going to weigh heavily on the voters of the coaches and Harris polls, the two human components of the BCS. Notre Dame likely will just move up one spot to fourth and be limited thanks to the remainder of its schedule. Besides the game against USC at the end of the year, none of Notre Dame's other three remaining opponents have winning records. And USC isn't exactly doing Notre dame — or Oregon — any favors with its loss to Arizona on Saturday.

But if Notre Dame goes undefeated, it's going to have a strong — and legitimate - case for inclusion in the national title game. And so far, this Notre Dame has proven it deserves it.

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