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Notre Dame Tries For Undefeated Season


Nothing goes better with a turkey sandwich than a full day of college football. The season is winding down. There's a lot at stake as teams look ahead to bowl games and to the national title. Thanksgiving weekend brings about some of the great rivalries in college football. And here to give us a preview of the weekend is Chris Dufresne, who covers college football for the L.A. Times.

Chris, welcome.

CHRIS DUFRESNE: Well, thanks for having me.

WERTHEIMER: Let's start with the big story for the weekend, which I think would be undefeated Notre Dame, number one for the first time in nearly two decades. They're facing USC in Los Angeles. The stakes are very high.

DUFRESNE: Well, they're very high for Notre Dame. They're not as high for USC. In fact, the scenario here was actually supposed to be flipped, and USC was the number one team in the country in the preseason, and Notre Dame was lightly regarded in terms of being in the national title chase, because they haven't really been in it in 20 years.

But, you know, the script has flipped. USC has had a disappointing season, and Notre Dame has really had a season out of nowhere. They are the only undefeated team left in the national title hunt. Now, if they lose on Saturday, then we're going to have a real mess. 'Cause then we're going to have six, seven, eight teams, possibly, at the end of the year all with one loss. And now you start digging into the hardware about who they played, when they played, and that will get very interesting.

WERTHEIMER: Well, it'll give us something to do now that we can no longer discuss the Electoral College.

DUFRESNE: Well, it's funny you say that, because, you know, Nate Silver, the nerd mastermind of the FiveThirtyEight blog, he's now delving into college football, now he's done with the political scene. So maybe he'll get into the BCS mess here if Notre Dame loses to USC.

WERTHEIMER: Do you, as a completely rational man of sport, pay any attention to the Sports Illustrated jinx? Notre Dame's on the cover.

DUFRESNE: I do pay attention to it, because Kansas State was on the cover last week.

WERTHEIMER: And look what happened.

DUFRESNE: And look what happened. It is unbelievable. And the thing about sports is that there are so many of these things you just can't put your finger on. And, of course, it's silliness. But, you know, maybe in a psychological way, it gets into a team's or player's head, just by fact that they are on the cover, that they're thinking about it.

These are not professional athletes. These are 18, 19, 20-year-old kids. I have never seen a sport where the psychology of the sport is so fundamental to the outcome.

WERTHEIMER: So who is going to be playing for the national title in January? What do you think?

DUFRESNE: There's only one team out there that could still be undefeated and play for the national title, and that's Notre Dame. There's going to be six or seven teams with one loss that will make a case for why they should be number two. The easiest one to say is the SEC champion, Alabama or Georgia. They're headed for a collision course next week in Atlanta. And the SEC has won six straight BCS titles. And so the champion of the SEC really controls its own fate.

Now, if Notre Dame loses - and I'd say there's a better than 50/50 chance that Notre Dame will lose to USC - then I think you're back to Alabama versus Oregon in the title game.

WERTHEIMER: What is the one game that you really want to watch?

DUFRESNE: The game I'm going to is the game I'm looking forward to most: Notre Dame at USC. And there's nothing better than one of the teams having a chance to go to the national title and the other team having a chance to deny that team.

WERTHEIMER: That's Chris Dufresne at the Los Angeles Times. Chris, thank you so much for talking to us.

DUFRESNE: OK. Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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