Notre Dame Football: The Stars Align, the Irish Are No. 1

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Notre Dame Football: The Stars Align, the Irish Are No. 1
Matt Cashore-US PRESSWIRE

Sometimes it all works out.

Notre Dame finally showed that they can totally dominate a weaker opponent in their 38-0 trouncing of Wake Forest this afternoon at Notre Dame Stadium.

Then in Waco, Texas, the 4-5 Baylor Bears blew out No. 1 Kansas State 52-24, very loudly ending the Wildcat's title bid.

Further west in Eugene, Ore., the No. 13 Stanford Cardinal went into Autzen Stadium and held the No. 2 Oregon Ducks to 14 points, pulling off a stunning 17-14 victory in overtime.

When the BCS standings are announced tomorrow evening, the Fighting Irish of Notre Dame will be at the top of the mountain.

The last time the Irish held the top ranking was 1993, after Lou Holtz's hot-shot squad knocked off then No. 1 Florida State. That team held the top spot for exactly one week, falling the next week to a Boston College team that should have been beaten.

Luckily, most of the players on this team were barely out of diapers in November of 1993.

Looming on the horizon this time around is arch nemesis USC.

The Trojans are the final hurdle between the Irish and a title berth, and they will enter the game licking deep wounds.

USC began the season atop the polls but have been a disappointment. Lane Kiffin's squad has fallen four times, most recently today, 38-28, to crosstown rival UCLA.

In the loss, quarterback Matt Barkley left the game with what CBS Los Angeles says was a separated throwing shoulder. Barkley's ability to play in one week against Notre Dame is in question.

Matt Cashore-US PRESSWIRE

To avoid a repeat of 1993, Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly has to channel his inner zen master.

He can no longer use his "we can only control what we can control" speech.

The Irish are No. 1. They wear the big target.

Focus is a concern. Urgency is the worry.

Kelly has to keep the locker room focused on the task at hand, which is still beating a skilled USC team.

There cannot be worry about potential title opponents, or any thought about which SEC team would be a better matchup.

The Irish themselves have to forget about polls, computers, rankings and all the things that light the Twittersphere on fire.

USC has nothing to play for other than ruining Notre Dame's season.

They will be focused. They will be ready. They will stop at nothing to stand in Notre Dame's way.

That is how life is when you are No. 1.

And let's be perfectly clear about this, once and for all...Notre Dame deserves this.

On a day when the SEC teams that matter played FCS teams, the Irish played their 10th automatic qualifying opponent in 11 games (Navy being the exception).

To get to the top of the hill, the Irish beat No. 21 Michigan (8-3), No. 12 Oklahoma (8-2) and No. 13 Stanford (9-2).

In addition, Notre Dame blew out Navy (7-4), BYU (6-4) and Miami (6-5).

Nine of Notre Dame's 11 opponents are now or were at one point potentially bowl eligible. Several are potential conference champions.

The Irish didn't back into this ranking—they earned it.

Brian Kelly now officially has his shot. His team heads into its final game in the driver's seat. It's up to him to keep the car pointed in the right direction.

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