Nevermind what haters say,
ignore them ’til they fade away. – T.I.
Yep, let the haters hate as Notre Dame is headed to the National Championship game for the first time since their last undefeated and national championship season in 1988 following a 22-13 win over bitter rivals USC. Unlike that 1988 team this one will get to the title game on the backs of their defense, a unit that carried them all season and again tonight.
For all of the haters out there, that's 24 years since their last championship and last championship game appearance too. For a team that's supposedly given all the advantages in the world of rankings and matchups that's sure a long time, huh?
A lot has changed around the landscape of college football and in the Fighting Irish program, but the one constant is that the Irish's national title hopes have always hinged on a season ending matchup with the Trojans of USC. On Saturday night the Irish passed their weekly test. One the pundits have said they had to pass every single week, all season long, no matter who they were facing.
It hasn't been pretty football at times and there hasn't been a ton of scoring all season long, but the Irish found the formula to make them championship material in going 12-0 this season. That formula was on full display in their victory over the Trojans on Saturday as they used a balanced offensive attack and a stifling defense to pull out another hard fought victory.
Notre Dame got a huge performance from Theo Riddick (146 yards rushing, 1TD) and quarterback Everett Golson (15-26, 217 yards passing) offensively, but it was the defense that once again came through in the clutch like has happened all season long.
Of course just when the Irish needed the big play in a close football game it was Heisman trophy candidate Manti Te'o coming through as he picked off USC redshirt freshman QB Max Wittek less than three minutes into the 3rd quarter. Unfortunately the Irish offense didn't convert, but it set the tone for what was a very even 2nd half of football.
The Irish allowed just 281 yards of total offense to a USC team that was averaging 431 yards heading into the game. Perhaps most telling of how the Irish came away victorious was the fact that they stuffed USC when it mattered most – on third down. The Trojans were just 1 of 8 on 3rd downs for the night and that won't help you win football games against Colorado, let alone Notre Dame.
Irish fans and haters across the country will be tuning in to the BCS selection show in two weeks to find out if the Irish will have what it takes to fulfill the No. 1 ranking they currently hold and who will face them.
No matter your thoughts on the Irish program being one of just two undefeated teams in FBS football makes you worthy of the national championship game.
For all of his opinions on college football, basketball and sports in general make sure to follow Andy on Twitter @andycoppens.