Notre Dame has four games left on its schedule. Win them all, and they'll finish 10-2, likely pushing for a BCS berth in the process.
Navigating the first eight games wasn't smooth. There was the loss to Michigan in which the Irish defense couldn't contain Devin Gardner. There was the loss to Oklahoma in which Tommy Rees threw two early interceptions and Notre Dame couldn't recover. There was a season-worst performance at Purdue in a win, and sloppy four-point wins over Michigan State and USC.
But all that's in the past, as Notre Dame enters the all-important month of November with games against Navy, Pittsburgh, BYU and Stanford on tap.
"October is for pretenders and November is for contenders," coach Brian Kelly said Sunday. "We try to ingrain that within our players', coaches' minds that this is now the time to kick it into gear because this is where you get the opportunity to play for championships."
[MORE: Freshmen step up for Irish in win over Air Force]
Notre Dame won't get an opportunity to play for a national championship, but they could get a shot at a BCS bowl victory.
Even if it may not look like it right now.
Notre Dame entered this week's BCS rankings at No. 25, and also cracked the USA Today Coaches Poll at No. 25. But it doesn't exactly matter whether or where they're ranked in the BCS, AP or coaches polls, for now.
A season-ending road win over Stanford will look strong even if the Cardinal lose to Oregon in Palo Alto on Nov. 7 (it'd obviously look incredibly strong if Stanford wins that game). A sneaky-good BYU team comes to South Bend the week before the Stanford game, and if they're able to beat Wisconsin on the road Nov. 9 they could be a top-20 team when they face the Irish.
[RELATED: Rees crushes Air Force with five TD passes]
Plus, it's not like Notre Dame has played an entirely light schedule -- Michigan and Oklahoma are top 25 teams, and Oklahoma is challenging for the Big 12 title. Michigan State is a top 25 team, too, and Arizona State's hanging around the rankings.
All the hand-wringing over whether or not a 6-2 Notre Dame team should be in the top 25 is entirely misplaced at this point. The next month is all that matters, and these rankings have a way of working themselves out.
"I think we're still in a pretty good position as long as we win," Kelly said. "We've got to win more football games. We're only 6‑2. I think if we take care of business and win week after week, we've got some quality teams in front of us, I think we're right where we need to be."