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With offense in gear, Notre Dame is double trouble

(MCT) — SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Late Saturday night, shortly after his eyebrows rose at the prospect of postgame barbecue, Manti Te’o shuffled through a crowd and literally rubbed shoulders with Notre Dame’s other man of this midnight hour, Everett Golson. One force that brought the Irish here, and one that can lift them where they want to go.

“Hey, good job, Five,” Te’o said, citing Golson’s jersey number.

“Appreciate it,” Golson replied.

This was Everett Golson Appreciation Night all right, as everyone saw Notre Dame’s national title aspirations fully form around a captivating new element — an eruptive quarterback leading a quality offense capable of producing enough points and big moments to, perhaps, sway voters should it come to evaluating a parade of unbeatens.

As it is, the Irish jumped two spots to No. 3 in the BCS standings unveiled Sunday. Should Alabama and Oregon win out, it likely won’t matter if Notre Dame does likewise. But if this becomes a pageant, if the human polls start arbitrating a muddle of contenders, it will help to be a pretty shimmering one.

Notre Dame’s defense is glitzy in its own way. But then add a consistently sparkly offense, like one that churns out 30 points and healthy 17-point wins as it did against Oklahoma, and you have elite balance and mouth-watering aesthetics for voters. And that means Golson must deliver four more times what he delivered in Norman.

“The reality of it is, it’s clear you want to win your games and you want to win them in convincing fashion,” Irish coach Brian Kelly said Sunday. “But there’s nothing we do practically that will emphasize that in any way.”

That’s true, and also sort of isn’t. Bringing along a live wire like Golson is a way to expand victory margins and command attention. Over the last few weeks — including one he sat out recovering from a concussion — Golson’s dedication to details and fundamental work and being a more assertive voice apparently soared.

“My goal coming back after missing the BYU game was to come in and really try to lead this team,” said Golson, who passed for 177 yards and ran for 64 against the Sooners. “Starting on Tuesday, when we had practice, that was what was driving me.”

Or as Kelly put it: “He just flat-out made a decision that this coaching is going to help me, and I’m going to take it to heart.”

So you get the defense, you get the snarly ground game, and now you get the flash-bulb potential of a Golson scramble or 50-yard bomb. You get a complete, glistening package.

“The mental development has been really good,” Kelly said. “If we continue to go that way, it’s going to give us an offense that’s going to be difficult to defend because we’ll have great balance. That’s what we’re trying to get with Everett in there.”

No, Notre Dame probably can’t reach Kansas State/Collin Klein levels of offensive rump-whippery. Kelly said he’s not giving Golson more as much as honing what Golson already knows. So, in that contrast of unbeatens separated by 59 points in the coaches’ poll, offense is no advantage, ND.

But given the Irish’s superlatives elsewhere, an activated Golson and an actualized offense complicate the overall argument. Percussive statements are not intermittent but the norm. Basically, it makes Notre Dame’s undefeated record look like a better undefeated record.

Maybe it won’t matter, given the caprices of the regular season and voters. But better to strafe than be sorry, infusing more possibility to a fall already bursting with it.

“He’s a leader,” receiver T.J. Jones said of Golson. “He’s learning how to hold this offense together.”

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