Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett
There are no longer signs and chalk messages all over campus urging Notre Dame to maim this week's opponent. The national media isn't descending into South Bend. No huge perception breakthrough is on the line.
Still, the Fighting Irish need to emphasize this week's game against Boston College as much as they did last weekend's 34-27 loss to USC. At 4-2, they can't afford any more defeats if they want to keep alive their slim BCS bowl hopes.
And while Boston College might not present the same kind of line-in-the-sand game as USC, this is still another rivalry that has gone the wrong way too often for Notre Dame. The Eagles have won six straight in this series since the last Irish victory in 2000.
"Ending that streak would mean a whole lot," safety Kyle McCarthy said. "First and foremost getting our season back on track and what our goals are, that's the most important thing. Then the added flavor that it's BC adds fuel to the fire."
The team must first make sure it doesn't let the disappointment of last week's loss linger.
The players, coaches and entire campus put so much effort and emotion into ending the losing streak against the Trojans, only to come up four yards short of tying the game on the last play. Some of the players think they suffered a bit of a hangover last year after an overtime loss to Pitt; they went out and lost 17-0 to Boston College in the following game.
"Any time you lose a tough game, it's going to take a while to get yourself back to just kind of feeling normal," linebacker Scott Smith said. " I know after the (USC) game, kind of into Saturday, on Saturday night, Sunday, even Monday, I was still pretty crushed, because I knew that was my last time being in a game like that against USC."
Yet with a seasoned, veteran team this year, the Irish feel like they can get over a loss more quickly than before.
"I think we're better handling that situation because we've been there before," quarterback Jimmy Clausen said. "We've been there, done that. (Tuesday's) practice was really up-tempo.
Everyone was having fun. In years past, after a loss, everyone's down until probably Wednesday, Thursday of the next week. You know, I didn't see that at all yesterday. "
Notre Dame's campus is on a fall break this week, allowing the players to concentrate solely on football without any distractions. Clausen has been using the free time to get extra treatment on his turf toe injury.
It's wildly unlikely that Boston College will pitch another shutout this year against the Irish. Clausen had one of his worst days last year in Chestnut Hill, battling through an illness before the game and then coughing up four interceptions, one of which was returned 76 yards for a touchdown. Clausen has thrown only two interceptions this season.
One of Notre Dame's goals this week is to come out strong offensively so it can build a lead and not have to go through a sixth straight final-minute thriller. Whether that materializes shouldn't have anything to do with a lack of focus on this week's opponent, pre-game hype or no pre-game hype.
"I know there's not a question in my mind they'll come out fighting again like they've been," coach Charlie Weis said. "People worry about being flat. How can be you flat when you are playing a team that just beat you six times in a row?"