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With losses by Kansas State and Oregon, Notre Dame expected to be No. 1

By Brian Hamilton, Chicago Tribune Modified: November 18, 2012 at 12:29 am •  Published: November 18, 2012

Four plays in, tailback Cierre Wood was in the end zone after a 68-yard run. Then came Golson's three scoring tosses: A 2-yarder to Tyler Eifert, the bomb to Goodman and a 34-yard floater to TJ Jones.

The Irish were up 31 at halftime. Notre Dame won five previous home games by 23 points, total. Wake Forest was rendered indistinguishable from the marshmallows squished on the sideline after the students hurled them from the stands.

“I thought everything came together,” Golson said. “My head is down, my foot's on the gas. I'm never going to look up and lose focus.”

So here comes USC, hated USC, the Trojans either swashbuckling in pursuit of ruining their rivals' dreams … or devastated as a season of disappointment grinds to a close.

“Our guys know what's at stake now,” Irish coach Brian Kelly said. “This is about an undefeated season. They cannot do anything else but beat USC. The rest is up to other people to decide.”

They would decide Sunday. They would decide Notre Dame was No. 1. And so it all will come to an end for the Irish, one way or another, in Southern California. Early in the fourth quarter Saturday, at a timeout that became a send-off, Te'o followed seniors Kapron Lewis-Moore and Zeke Motta to the sideline. Te'o pounded his chest, then screamed and punched the night air all the way there.

One of the best nights of their lives, and it would get even better. And here comes the biggest one of all.

MCT Information Services

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