SOUTH BEND – And welcome, America, to Sensory Deprivation Central.
The big goal right now is to take care of Wake Forest, declares Notre Dame defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore.
Youre in the grind of the season, so youre just trying to figure out a way to beat your next opponent, insists peerless tight end Tyler Eifert.
And then theres this, from Lewis-Moore again: We cant look ahead to USC, and I think that is one thing this football team has done a great job of. We dont look ahead.
Do tell. The rest of the country might be talking about how the BCS will conspire to stick a shiv in Kansas State or Oregon should the No. 1 Wildcats, No. 2 Ducks and No. 3 Irish all wind up unbeaten. But in South Bend, everyone just claps their hands over their ears and chants La, la, la, la every time someone brings it up.
The blinders, it seems, are in their upright and locked position. And so is the focus.
Given enough prodding, coach Brian Kelly will slip and peek a bit. His official position is he wont start politicking for his team until (and if) the Irish have fully run the table, but hes only human. The Irish have been so good and so dependable and so clutch when they needed to be, even Kelly feels compelled to point it out at times.
I think if you want style points, look at our defense, look at the schedule that we played, 10 FBS teams, he said this week. Well just keep working on one at a time and let other people figure out where that puts us.
Of course, you can say that when you sort of know already where it will put you. Kellys a smart man, hes probably already figuring that if the Irish roll Wake Forest as expected and then beat USC next week, it doesnt much matter what Kansas State or Oregon does. If both win out, itll more than likely be one of them and Notre Dame in the BCS championship game, simply because the TV boys arent going to want any part of Kansas State-Oregon if Notre Dames in the mix.
Not that Kelly or anyone else in South Bend is pretending to keep up with any of that.
Thats the message coach Kelly has given us all year, offensive lineman Mike Golic Jr. says. Hes been tremendously valuable to us in passing along what we need to do every week and kind of giving us a message to focus on each week and what our job is that week. Everyone from top to bottom buys into that.
And if you suspect that, being human, they sometimes dont completely buy into it – no bubble is that impenetrable when youre Notre Dame and youre 10-0 for the first time in two decades – they have bought into it enough. If they didnt, they wouldnt be 10-0 to start with. And they wouldnt have held onto their wits when Purdue pulled even with them late and Stanford was hammering on the gates and Pittsburgh had them buried by two scores with a quarter to play.
Every time, they pulled through. Its been ugly at times and nerve-shredding and never stylish, but who cares about that?
Style, after all, is just one more thing on the other side of the blinders.
Were not a stylish team, Eifert said this week. We grind it out. We have the best defense in the country. Whats more important, having a stylish offense or having the best defense in the country? You can look at it from both sides.
Or, as the Irish prefer: Neither side.