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“We know what we’re doing, and I think that keeps us moving forward.”

And if the Irish ever need reassurance, they can look to Stanford. Both schools have tough academic standards that can make recruiting _ and winning _ a challenge.

Yet four years after that 1-3 start, the Cardinal travel to No. 4 Oregon next week for a game that could decide the Pac-10 title. (No. 18 Southern California isn’t eligible.)

“We just look at every game like it’s a championship game,” Harbaugh said. “In order to win the championship, you’ve got to win your next ballgame. This was the next game. … Now next week is the big game.”