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No more lobbying for No. 1 Irish; Now it’s about winning a title

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly during second half an NCAA college football game South Bend Ind. Saturday Nov. 17

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly during the second half of an NCAA college football game in South Bend, Ind., Saturday, Nov. 17, 2012. Notre Dame defeated Wake Forest 38-0. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)

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Updated: December 20, 2012 6:33AM



Brian Kelly estimated there were about 12 to 15 people in his home theater room Saturday night, cheering wildly at the stunning demise of Kansas State and Oregon.

Was Kelly one of them?

“Heck, yeah,” the Notre Dame coach said.

The Irish left Notre Dame Stadium on Saturday night as the No. 3 team in the country, on the outside looking in. They awoke Sunday morning as the consensus No. 1 team in the AP poll, the near-unanimous No. 1 in the coaches poll, and most importantly, the runaway No. 1 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 SEC championship game.

While the Irish took to Twitter en masse Saturday night to celebrate, Kelly was heartened to hear the way his players were talking in the training room Sunday morning.

“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 a not-so-funhouse mirror version of Notre Dame’s. They started the season at No. 1 with all the hype, but have stumbled to four losses, including Saturday’s 38-28 loss to UCLA. Meanwhile, the Irish began the season with no hype and little hope, but have a chance to finish on top.

The Trojans will be without star quarterback Matt Barkley, who suffered an apparent shoulder injury against UCLA. Freshman Max Wittek has thrown just nine passes all year.

But considering the rivalry and the stakes — and the fact that USC has won nine of the last 10 meetings — the Irish won’t take the Trojans lightly.

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



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