What we learned from Notre Dame, Week 7

Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

1. Notre Dame isn't going to the BCS this year: Sure, the Irish could run the table and finish 10-2 after Saturday's loss to USC. But does anyone really believe that this team, which takes every game down to the final play, can win six straight? And even a 10-2 record wouldn't include any impressive victories, meaning the Fighting Irish probably couldn't climb high enough in the BCS standings. It looks like the Gator Bowl is the team's best bet.

2. The gap has narrowed, not closed: Saturday's near-miss proves that Notre Dame won't just roll over and die against the big boys like it did in the recent past. However, there's still a significant talent differential between an elite team like the Trojans and the Irish. The disparity could be seen most glaringly on defense; USC dominated with its front four, while Notre Dame struggled to get to the quarterback or cover receivers. The Irish have a lot of pluck and fight in them this year. They need more big-time players on defense.

3. Some new playmakers emerged: It wasn't just the usual suspects making things happen on Saturday. Receiver John Goodman had key contributions, including out of the Wildcat. Gary Gray started at corner and overcame a tough start to grab a crucial interception. Robby Parris had maybe his best day in an Irish uniform before getting hurt late. And Manti Te'o continues to show improvement as the freshman linebacker goes along. Those are good signs for the second half of the year.