Poll watch: Irish move up to No. 3 in BCS

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Poll watch: Irish move up to No. 3 in BCS

BOSTON -- A 21-6 win over Boston College coupled with Alabama's loss to Texas A&M bumped Notre Dame up a spot to No. 3 in the latest BCS standings released Sunday night, as expected. K-State took the No. 1 spot in the BCS, while Oregon sits at No. 2.

Big picture, nothing has changed for Notre Dame. The Irish still need attrition to reach the national title -- although now, they need less. Alabama's loss knocked down the first wall. For Notre Dame to reach the title, they need either Kansas State or Oregon to lose -- and, of course, the Irish still need to win out.

No matter how impressive or unimpressive Notre Dame looks against Wake Forest and No. 18 USC, as long as the Irish win, they'll stay at No. 3. They won't move up unless the No. 1 Wildcats or No. 2 Ducks lose.

Notre Dame received a first-place vote in the coaches poll for the first time since 2006, with that vote courtesy of coach Brian Kelly. While all Notre Dame players can control is winning, Kelly can attempt to influence the system by putting the Irish atop the coaches poll, which is factored into the BCS. But Kelly was the only coach to vote the Irish No. 1, and it won't change Notre Dame's predicament in the long run.

"We've played a tough schedule," Kelly said Sunday. "Obviously wins on the road against Oklahoma and Michigan State and certainly showing how to beat a tough team in Stanford, those wins are big wins for us. I think we're tested, and I like the way our quarterback is developing, and he's getting better and better each and every week. Those are all positive things."

If K-State and Oregon run the table, though, Notre Dame is staring down either a trip to the Fiesta Bowl or Rose Bowl, the latter of which emerged as an option with Stanford's win over Oregon State on Saturday. If Stanford loses to Oregon and the Ducks go to the title (they'd still have to beat Oregon State and the Pac 12 South champion), there's a chance the Pac 12 won't have an eligible team to play in the Rose Bowl. And with the Rose Bowl first on the at-large pecking order, chances are they'd take Notre Dame.

If that's not the case, though, the Irish would almost certainly earn a Fiesta Bowl berth, where they could wind up facing No. 8 Texas A&M, which rocketed into the BCS discussion with its win over Alabama, which appears destined for the Sugar Bowl. No. 5 Georgia or No. 6 Florida would be viable options for Notre Dame to play in Glendale, too.

But the Fiesta and Rose Bowls are just backup options, and ones that Notre Dame may avoid falling back on with one more loss ahead of them. But no matter how well Notre Dame has played, or will play, that's the only route.

"If you look at National Championship caliber football, you've got to look at a defense, and so that's why we feel strongly that our football team has put themselves in the discussion," Kelly said. "We'll let others decide, but I think we've played our way into the discussion."

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Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks battle Bruins tonight on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Blackhawks battle Bruins tonight on CSN

Watch as the Blackhawks take on the Boston Bruins tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Blackhawks Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

Click here to watch the game or download the NBC Sports App, your home for live streaming coverage of the Blackhawks.

Five Things to Watch:

1. Scott Darling gets the nod.

Joel Quenneville is giving a struggling Corey Crawford a breather tonight, electing to go with Darling in the final game of the father's road trip. Darling is 11-4-2 with a 2.34 goals against average, .924 save percentage and one shutout in 20 games this season. His numbers aren't as great on the road, where he is 4-2-1 with a 2.83 GAA and .901 save percentage compared to a 7-2-1 record with a 1.98 GAA and .928 save percentage at home, but he fared well against Boston last season. The Lemont native stopped 42 of 46 shots, good for a .913 save percentage, in a 6-4 win at the United Center last April.

2. The Panarin-Anisimov-Kane line.

The Blackhawks' trio of Artem Anisimov, Patrick Kane and Artemi Panarin had a rare zero points in Tuesday's 6-4 win over Colorado, but don't expect to see that again. In fact, it could be the opposite. In their last meeting against the Bruins, a 6-4 win on April 3 during the 2015-16 season, they combined for 11 points (five goals, six assists), highlighted by a Kane hat trick that put him at 100 points on the season for the first time in his career. 

3. How the rookies build off a monsterous game.

In arguably the most well-rounded victory of the season Tuesday in Colorado, the Blackhawks had three rookies that had multi-point efforts. Vinnie Hinostroza had two goals, including the game winner. Tanner Kero had two goals and one assist, while Nick Schmaltz also had a goal and an assist. It was the top-six that was doing the heavy lifting earlier in the season, now the bottom-six is slowly starting to contribute on a consistent basis. The Blackhawks will be in great shape if they can confidently roll four lines that have the potential to find the back of the net on any given shift.

4. Patrice Bergeron vs. Jonathan Toews.

Two of the best two-way centers in the league will go head-to-head, and it's always a fun matchup to watch. Bergeron leads the league with 597 faceoff wins, and is ranked fifth with a 58.4 percentage at the dot while Toews ranks eighth in wins with 473 — despite missing nine games with a back injury — and sits at sixth with a 57.5 percentage. Both of the perennial Selke Trophy candidates have struggled offensively this season, with Bergeron recording only 21 points in 45 games and Toews with 22 points in 38 contests. Bergeron has been heating up as of late, though, scoring three goals and six assists in his last eight games. Bergeron also leads the league in possession numbers, with the Bruins controlling 61.9 percent of the even-strength shot attempts when he's on the ice.

5. Brad Marchand.

In September, Marchand inked an eight-year, $49 million deal and it's already paying dividends for the Bruins. He has 14 points (seven goals, seven assists) in his last eight games, and 45 points total, which is by far the most on his team and tied for sixth in the NHL. He's 16 points away from tying his career high of 61 set last season, with a little less than half the year to go. He's also had great success against the Blackhawks. In his last six games against Chicago, dating back to the 2013-14 campaign, he has registered at least a point in all of them, scoring four goals and adding five assists. To make life more difficult, he's a player that enjoys getting under people's skin, so expect him to be a big factor tonight.

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