Coach Brian Kelly was doing the same thing Notre Dame fans around the country were doing Saturday night, flipping back and forth between the Kansas State and Oregon games and cheering loudly for one of the top two teams in the BCS standings to lose so the Fighting Irish could have a shot at the title game.
When both went down, though, he said he felt neither a sense of elation nor satisfaction. It was more a feeling of control. The Fighting Irish (11-0) were now in control of their own destiny, knowing a win over rival Southern California (7-4) on Saturday puts the Irish in the BCS title game.
The Trojans will be without quarterback Matt Barkley, who has a sprained AC joint in his right shoulder.
Alabama and Georgia each need two victories to reach the title game, and could have to go through each other.
A day after Oregon and Kansas State lost to give up control of the BCS race, the Fighting Irish (.9973) moved into first-place in the standings for the first time.
Notre Dame (11-0), is ranked No. 1 in both polls and by the computer ratings. Alabama (.9333) and Georgia (.8763) also have rivalry games Saturday. The Crimson Tide host Auburn and the Bulldogs play Georgia Tech at home.
If the favorites win, the SEC championship game will be a national semifinal of sorts, with the winner advancing to the BCS title game.
The Irish aren’t just No. 1, they are a unanimous No. 1 in the Associated Press poll after improving to 11-0 for the first time since 1989.
A week earlier, some scoffed at Kelly for ranking the Irish No. 1 in the coaches’ poll. This week 55 of his 59 colleagues agreed with him. Kelly didn’t feel any sense of vindication.
‘‘I was just being consistent with my rankings. I told our team that I felt like they were the best team in the country because I knew more about our team than the other two,’’ he said.
The path to the BCS national championship game seemed pretty clear for Kansas State and Oregon: Win out and they were headed to Miami. That all changed Saturday night when Baylor blitzed the then-No. 1 Wildcats and Stanford stunned the then-No. 2 Ducks. Both schools can still earn BCS bowl bids, but the losses likely cost Kansas State QB Collin Klein and Oregon’s Kenjon Barner a shot at the Heisman Trophy. For their parts, both coaches refused to dwell on the big losses. ‘‘The really only failures in life are giving up and not trying and not caring,’’ Kansas State coach Bill Snyder said. ‘‘I would like to think that none of the young people in that room fit that category. They still have some opportunities to do some special things.’’ Added Oregon’s Chip Kelly: ‘‘It hurts and as I told them, you’d like to have some words that would take the pain out of it, but there aren’t. We’ll feel bad for a little bit of time and we’ll bounce back from it.’’
Hurricanes in limbo
To no one’s surprise, Miami coach Al Golden wants to see the Hurricanes in a bowl game this season. It’s still unclear if he will get that chance. The university remained silent Sunday about whether Miami (6-5) would self-impose a second straight postseason ban, which would be done in response to the ongoing NCAA investigation into the Hurricanes’ compliance practices. Golden said he spoke briefly Sunday with acting Miami athletic director Blake James, but was not told of any final decision . . . Tennessee fired coach Derek Dooley after he posted losing seasons in each of his three years. Dooley’s 15-21 record sorely lacked quality wins over conference foes. Dooley was 4-19 in SEC games and 0-15 against Top 25 teams. Tennessee is 1-14 in the SEC over the last two years. Offensive coordinator Jim Chaney will coach the Volunteers’ season finale . . . Duke coach David Cutcliffe made it clear he will not be replacing Dooley at Tennessee, where Cutcliffe was a one-time assistant, saying he’s ‘‘going to be coaching at Duke next year . . . that’s a fact.’’ . . . Maryland’s Board of Regents is scheduled to meet Monday to discuss the Big Ten’s invitation to join the conference. If Maryland approves the move and Rutgers opts to leave the Big East, the Big Ten would have 14 schools.