Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly has made it clear history will have no bearing on his team's performance when it takes the field each Saturday.
He better hope so.
BCS history and this column last Sunday showed things would likely fall into place for Notre Dame if they could simply keep doing the hardest thing there is to do for a college football team in November: keep winning.
It's hard to go undefeated against a major conference schedule. Ask Alabama. And Kansas State. And Oregon.
And ask Notre Dame, with historical foil and decade dominator USC set to host the Irish next Saturday with one team playing for all the marbles and the other playing spoiler.
And therein lies the rub.
Three-touchdown favorite Oregon was the team with everything to lose last night in Eugene. They did, with Stanford's rock-solid defense proving what many around college football appeared to conveniently forget: defense will never go out of style.
Ditto Kansas State visiting defense-optional Baylor. The Bears chose to play defense for one magical night and oh-by-the-way rolled up half-a-hundred on the previously No. 1 Wildcats who last night appeared to be about the the fourth best team occupying the state of Texas, not the nation.
Now its Notre Dame's turn, last named No. 1 a mere 18 years, 11 months, and 26 days ago. That coronation, one replete with the glowing #1 sign illuminated atop campus's Grace Hall, lasted a whopping seven days. Enter Tom Coughlin, Boston College and nearly two decades of frustration to follow.
What's Past is PrologueNotre Dame has visited USC on Thanksgiving Saturday with the national championship at stake six times in the last half-century. It won twice, first in 1966, a 51-0 humbling of then-No. 10 USC, and in its most recent trip under such circumstances: November 26, 1988 when Lou Holtz's 10-0 top-ranked Irish bundled 10-0 and No. 2 USC, 27-10.
For three months, Kelly and the team's speaking representatives have reiterated their mantra: each week is the season's most important game. One matters no more than the other when the goal is to win them all.
They're one Saturday away.
"It's easier now because we have one game left," said Kelly last night prior to kickoffs in Eugene and Waco. "So for us, the focus and all of those things, not looking ahead, we don't have to worry about that anymore.
"We have one game left on our schedule. Our guys know what's at stake now. This is about an undefeated season. They cannot do anything else but beat USC. The rest is up to other people to decide. But they can clearly focus.
"I told them tonight I'm proud of them. I voted them number one in the country for a reason, because I think they're the best team in the country…"
He's not alone.