Let’s not underestimate what Notre Dame accomplished in demolishing USC 49-14 on Saturday.

It not only put the Fighting Irish, who rose to No. 9 in the AP poll, squarely in the competition for a College Football Playoff berth. It showed that ND has the ingredients to match up with anyone in its path to the playoffs.

That’s still a long, tough road. The trip to No. 8 Miami now looms largest in an obstacle-filled schedule that can make the Irish pay any time they come up with a sub-par performance.

But it’s no longer pie-in-the-sky to talk about Pasadena or New Orleans. The Irish need to play consistent, good football to win out. They don’t need any miracles, though.

That’s a great credit to the rebuilt staff Brian Kelly put together after last year’s 4-8 disaster.

Here are the best things about Notre Dame, the things that will make it a tough out the rest of the way. The rest of this article is available to subscribers only – to become a subscriber click here.