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Notre Dame No. 1 in BCS, one win away from playing for national title

Notre Dame running back Theo Riddick (6) sign almmater following an NCAA college football game against Wake Forest South Bend

Notre Dame running back Theo Riddick (6) sign the alma mater following an NCAA college football game against Wake Forest in South Bend, Ind., Saturday, Nov. 17, 2012. Notre Dame defeated Wake Forest 38-0. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

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Updated: November 19, 2012 2:17PM



Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly estimated there were 12 to 15 people in his home theater room late Saturday, cheering wildly at the stunning upsets of Kansas State and Oregon.

Was Kelly one of them?

‘‘Heck, yeah,’’ he said.

The Irish left Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday as the No. 3 team in the country, on the outside looking in at the BCS title game. On Sunday, they became the No. 1 team in the Asso- ciated Press media poll, the No. 1 team in the USA Today coaches poll and, most important, the No. 1 team in the BCS standings.

No more politicking. No more style points. It’s all pretty simple now: Beat USC on Saturday and play for a national championship, likely against the winner of the Southeastern Conference championship game.

While Notre Dame players took to Twitter en masse late Saturday to celebrate, Kelly was heartened to hear the way they were talking in the training room Sunday.

‘‘They all to a man know that it doesn’t mean much if you’re No. 1 for just three or four days,’’ Kelly said. ‘‘So they understand the importance of the USC game.’’

The Trojans’ season has been the opposite of the Irish’s. They started the season at No. 1 but have stumbled to four losses, including a 38-28 defeat Saturday at the hands of arch- rival UCLA. Notre Dame, meanwhile, began the season with no hype but has a chance to finish on top.

USC might be without star quarterback Matt Barkley, who suffered an apparent injury to his right (throwing) shoulder against UCLA. Freshman Max Wittek has thrown only nine passes all season.

But considering the rivalry and the stakes — and the fact the Trojans have won nine of the last 10 games between the teams — the Irish won’t take USC lightly.

‘‘It’s a big game every year; it’s a big rivalry,’’ Notre Dame nose guard Louis Nix III said. ‘‘They beat us last year. We want to come back with a vengeance.’’



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