The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

Sports

November 18, 2012

Irish take over No. 1 in BCS, polls

NEW YORK —  Notre Dame is a victory away from playing for the BCS title. Alabama and Georgia each need two, 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.

“Now we don’t have to answer questions about style points or politics,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said. “Now we have a chance to play for the national championship this week.”

Notre Dame (11-0), ranked No. 1 in both polls and by the computer ratings, needs only to beat slumping rival Southern California on Saturday in Los Angeles to earn its first trip to the BCS title game.

USC has been a major disappointment this season, starting it No. 1 and dropping to 7-4 after losing Saturday to UCLA. They also will be without quarterback Matt Barkley for the matchup with the Fighting Irish. Max Wittek will make his first career start after Barkley was injured at the end of the UCLA game.

No. 2 Alabama (.9333) and No. 3 Georgia (.8763) also have rivalry games Saturday. The Crimson Tide hosts Auburn and the Bulldogs play Georgia Tech at home.

If the favorites win, the Southeastern Conference championship game will be a national semifinal of sorts, with the winner advancing to the BCS title game.

Florida (10-1) is in fourth heading into a huge game at 10th-place Florida State. The Seminoles (10-1) also will have an ACC title game to play.

Oregon (10-1) dropped to fifth and Kansas State (10-1) was sixth.

Notre Dame, which last won a national championship in 1988, has lost nine of the last 10 against USC, the lone victory coming in 2010, Kelly’s first season as coach.

But the Trojans have been a major disappointment this season, starting it No. 1 and dropping to 7-4 after losing Saturday to UCLA. There’s also a chance quarterback Matt Barkley could miss the game. He was injured at the end of the UCLA game, but USC does not make injury information public so his status likely will be a mystery this week.

If Notre Dame loses, it could leave a muddle of one-loss teams vying for a spot in the BCS title game, even opening up the possibility of a second consecutive all-SEC national championship game.

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