Notre Dame football players lost their privacy decades ago. They were always the World Wide Irish.
They make up the one true national college football franchise, the one program that can legitimately recruit in 50 states, the one team that commands its own NBC series.
This unseemly conference-swapping — here's Maryland joining a league that has Nebraska, here's West Virginia trying to pretend it has kinship with Baylor — goes on way below the Irish level. They are in a different league, the Big Notre Dame, no matter how small they might have played in the 19 years that have passed since they were last ranked No. 1.
Now they're back, unbeaten and atop the polls that did not include them when this all began.
In that sense Notre Dame has traded places with USC, which was No. 1 then and is nowhere now, and if the Irish can beat the Trojans on Saturday in the Coliseum, they will play for their first BCS national championship and their first title, mythical or otherwise, since 1988.