Fighting Irish See End of Longest No. 1 Drought in School History

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Byline: Tom Coyne Associated Press By Tom Coyne Associated Press

SOUTH BEND, Ind. 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 says 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) puts them in the BCS title game.

Alabama and Georgia each need 2 wins, and they could have to go through each other.

A day after the top two teams lost to give up control of the BCS race, Notre Dame (.9973) moved into first place in the standings for the first time.

"Now we dont have to answer questions about style points or politics," Kelly said. "Now we have a chance to play for the national championship this week."

Notre Dame, ranked No. 1 in both polls and by the computer ratings, needs only to beat slumping USC in Los Angeles to earn its first trip to the BCS title game.

Alabama (.9333) and Georgia (.8763) also have rivalry games Saturday. The Crimson Tide hosts Auburn and the Bulldogs host Georgia Tech.

It has been 19 years since the Irish were last able to think like this. Actually, 18 years, 11 months and 29 days. But whos counting?

Thats how long it had been since Notre Dame was last ranked No. 1 in the AP poll. Thats a span that began after Boston College shocked the Fighting Irish with a 41-39 victory in 1993 a week after second-ranked Notre Dame upset top-ranked Florida State to claim that No. 1 ranking.

Thats the same ranking the Irish held in 1990, 1989, 1988 and for 77 games over the years until ending the longest streak ever without a No. 1 ranking in Notre Dame history with a 38-0 victory over Wake Forest on Saturday.

The Irish arent 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 said he didnt 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 longest Notre Dame had ever gone previously without being ranked No. 1 was 10 years and 30 days, which was the gap between the time No. 19 Purdue beat a top-ranked Notre Dame squad coached by Terry Brennan in 1954 and the Irish coached by Ara Parseghian reclaimed the top-ranking after a 40-0 win over Navy in 1964. …