It's been 20 years coming, but Notre Dame is on the verge of playing for the national title.
All that stands between the Irish and a spot in the BCS title game is a date with the disappointing USC Trojans Saturday night at the Coliseum in LA (8 p.m. ET, ABC).
But oddsmakers are treading carefully here, fearing the Trojans can pull an upset and beat the Irish for the 10th time in 11 tries. The spread was only 5.5 points as of Thursday at most sportsbooks.
"USC has been a home dog just three times since 2007, but they lost every time, so maybe oddsmakers are being paranoid here," said Jack Randall, a football analyst at OddsShark.com.
Notre Dame began this season ranked No. 24 in the USA Today poll; they now sit at No. 1, with 11 wins in a row. But while they've certainly got some quality victories, not all of them have been pretty.
The Irish won at Michigan State, beat Michigan, outlasted Stanford and won a big one at Oklahoma, but they also struggled to beat Purdue, needed a late score to beat BYU and got very fortunate to defeat Pitt.
Whatever the case, Notre Dame now finds itself one victory away from playing in the BCS title game.
On the season the Irish have scored 34 touchdowns, allowed just eight, and have outrushed opponents by a 201-93 YPG margin. [See all college football odds here at SBNation.]
USC began this season at No. 1 in the AP poll; after four losses, including three over their last four games, it looks like the Trojans will be relegated to a minor bowl. Southern Cal started 2-0, but in a sign of things to come the Trojans got outplayed at Stanford and lost 21-14.
USC then won four in a row, beating some of the weaker sisters of the Pac-12, then lost at Arizona and at home to Oregon. Southern Cal then defeated Arizona State, but last week, in the game that decided the Pac-12 South Division, the Trojans got beat by UCLA 38-28.
But through it all, the Trojans could make their season with an upset of the Irish Saturday.
USC has scored 49 TDs this season, given up 33, and outrushed foes 161-151.
As of Wednesday most CFB betting outlets were listing Notre Dame as a 5.5-point road favorite for Saturday night's game over the Trojans.
Southern Cal has won nine of the last time games in this rivalry. Last year the Trojans beat the Irish 31-17 in South Bend.
Free Pick: Every other top team in the polls and BCS standings this season has eventually tasted defeat. Why should Notre Dame be any different? Despite the green QB, we'll take the points with USC as a rare home dog. (courtesy of PickShark.com)