The University of Notre Dame is ranked No. 1 in the Bowl Championship Series standings for the first time, putting the Irish in position to play for college football’s national title if they win their season finale against the University of Southern California.
Notre Dame jumped two spots after the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the BCS rankings lost on the same day for the first time since 2007. Kansas State was beaten two days ago by Baylor University 52-24, while the University of Oregon fell 17-14 in overtime to visiting Stanford.
Notre Dame routed Wake Forest 38-0 two days ago to improve its record to 11-0 for the first time since winning the last of its eight Associated Press national championships after the 1988 season. The Fighting Irish would earn a spot in the Jan. 7 BCS title game in Miami if they win at USC on Nov. 24.
“They all to a man know that it doesn’t mean much if you’re No. 1 for just three or four days,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said yesterday at a news conference. “So they understand the importance of the USC game.”
The University of Alabama (10-1) is now second in the BCS rankings, moving back into position to defend its national title if the Crimson Tide are able to win out. Alabama topped the BCS standings for its first four weeks this season before a 29-24 loss to Texas A&M on Nov. 10.
The University of Georgia (10-1) is third in the BCS rankings, followed by the University of Florida (10-1), Oregon (10-1), Kansas State (10-1), Louisiana State (9-2), Stanford (9-2), Texas A&M (9-2) and Florida State (10-1).
Notre Dame wasn’t in control of its destiny heading into the past weekend, as the Irish were undefeated yet ranked third in the BCS behind Kansas State and Oregon.
If all three schools were to remain unbeaten, Kelly said last week he’d campaign for his team any way he could, even joking he’d make an appearance on Oprah Winfrey’s talk show to seek voter support for the Irish. The BCS standings are determined using the USA Today coaches’ poll, Harris Interactive poll and six computer rankings.
That all changed this past weekend when Kansas State and Oregon went down to defeat less than 10 minutes apart. Kelly said he watched both games at home with about a dozen friends and family members, followed by extensive celebration.
“It’s like being selected for the playoffs,” Kelly said. “Now you know you’re in if you take care of business. I think it’s more about just the feeling that you’re included now in the race for a championship.”
Notre Dame had never been No. 1 in the BCS rankings, which began in 1998, and last sat atop a national poll in 1993.
“We’ve had three different No. 1 teams in the past three weeks,” BCS Executive Director Bill Hancock said in a statement. “While some dreams have been shattered, other new hopes of a national championship have been ignited.”
The Irish, who have lost nine of their past 10 meetings with USC (7-4), will face a Trojans team that’s without starting quarterback Matt Barkley, who sprained his throwing shoulder in a Nov. 17 loss to the University of California at Los Angeles.
“We’ve been given this opportunity,” Kelly said. “We’ve got to make the best of it by beating USC.”
Alabama hosts in-state rival Auburn University (3-8) on Nov. 24 and then would probably play in the Southeastern Conference championship game on Dec. 1 in Atlanta.
“Everything is ahead of us as a team,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said after yesterday’s 49-0 rout of Western Carolina. “Obviously we’re going to have a difficult game next week. You throw everything out the window in terms of records when you play rivalry games.”
No. 3 Georgia finishes its regular season with a Nov. 24 home game against Georgia Tech (6-5), while No. 4 Florida visits 10th-ranked Florida State the same day. Oregon is at 15th-ranked Oregon State (8-2) on Nov. 24, with Kansas State meeting No. 16 Texas (8-2) on Dec. 1.
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