Poll watch: Notre Dame earns No. 1 spot in BCS


Poll watch: Notre Dame earns No. 1 spot in BCS

Brian Kelly was alone in voting Notre Dame No. 1 a week ago. He has plenty of company this week.

For the first time since 1993, Notre Dame occupies the top spot in the AP and coaches polls released Sunday morning, with the 11-0 Irish needing a win over USC -- which fell out of the top 25 in both polls -- to advance to the BCS Championship. Notre Dame received 56 of 59 first-place votes in the coaches poll, with Alabama garnering two and Georgia one. The AP poll saw Notre Dame garner all 60 first-place votes.

More importantly, Notre Dame sits atop the BCS standings released Sunday night, the first time the Irish have been No. 1 in the BCS' 15-year history. If Notre Dame beats USC, they'll face an SEC team in the BCS Championship, as Alabama and Georgia are Nos. 2 and 3 in the poll. Those two teams will meet in the SEC title game Dec. 1 in Atlanta to decide who moves on to Miami.

At No. 1, if the Irish beat USC they won't be jumped by a one-loss SEC team. That would've been more a concern had either, not both, Oregon or Kansas State lost on Saturday. But with the nation's Nos. 1 and 2 teams falling on the same day for the first time since 2007, Notre Dame's shot at the BCS title is as secure as it gets -- so long as the Irish beat USC.

This may not be the best time to talk contingency plans, but Stanford's win over Oregon did push Notre Dame back into the Fiesta Bowl discussion if they can't beat USC on Saturday. Barring something unforseen, if Notre Dame loses to USC the BCS Championship will be an all-SEC final, with No. 4 Florida -- ugly offense and all -- facing the winner of AlabamaGeorgia. Given Palm's projected BCS standings, Oregon won't jump Florida -- although the Ducks do sit at No. 4, two spots ahead of Florida, in the coaches poll.

That scenario, though, plays out if everybody but Notre Dame (and the loser of the SEC championship) win out. But Florida plays at Florida State on Nov. 24, and if the Gators lose Oregon would jump back in to the BCS Championship picture, even if they beat Oregon State and don't go to the Pac 12 championship.

What that means for Notre Dame is the Rose Bowl is still an option, albeit one that needs a more than a few things to happen. If Oregon doesn't go to the championship, the Irish would probably wind up in the Fiesta Bowl, where Kansas State will land if the Wildcats rebound with a win over Texas on Saturday. But if K-State loses and Oklahoma beats Oklahoma State and TCU to win the Big 12, the Fiesta Bowl may balk at a Notre Dame-OU rematch.

From there, the Sugar Bowl would be the most likely option given it won't have an SEC team to fill a spot. If chaos reigns and Florida State squeaks in to the BCS Championship picture -- not a totally far-fetched idea -- the Orange Bowl could open up as an option, too.

But that's all a contingency plan, and one Notre Dame fans, players, etc. don't want to think about. If Notre Dame beats USC, the destination is clear.

Complete Cubs-Indians World Series Game 3 coverage on CSN

Complete Cubs-Indians World Series Game 3 coverage on CSN

Tune in to CSN at 6 p.m. for Cubs Postseason Live as our crew gets ready for Game 3 of the World Series against the host Cleveland Indians. Be sure to flip over to CSN immediately after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on Cubs Postseason Live.

Starting pitching matchup: Josh Tomlin (13-9, 4.40 ERA) vs. Kyle Hendricks (16-8, 2.13 ERA)

Get ready for Game 3 by reading these stories:

Cubs 'can't imagine' what Wrigley Field atmosphere will be like for World Series

Cubs’ Kyle Hendricks ready for the next biggest start of his career

Ben Zobrist stabilizes Cubs World Series lineup with Babe Ruth-esque performance

Indians pitcher Josh Tomlin will pitch World Series Game 3 against Cubs with ailing father in stands

Kyle Schwarber not medically cleared to play the field, will not start in Games 3-5 of World Series 

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Cubs 'can't imagine' what Wrigley Field atmosphere will be like for World Series

Cubs 'can't imagine' what Wrigley Field atmosphere will be like for World Series

The Cubs already know they have some of the most loyal fans in all of sports. Fans have brought their enthusiasm to Wrigley Field on game days all season long.

But the Cubs also know the energy at The Friendly Confines may reach a new level when the Cubs host the first World Series game since Oct. 10, 1945.

"It's going to be an absolute blast," said manager Joe Maddon. "Beanie's (Maddon's mom) coming in. My kids are coming. Everybody's coming in. It's going to be great. So I know that people have been waiting for this for a long time are going to savor it, and hopefully on our part we can do something to really make it even better."

Ben Zobrist is no stranger to the World Series, with 2016 being his third appearance and second consecutive. He knows what the main stage's atmosphere can be like, but for a fan base that's waited 71 years?

"I can't imagine. They're probably just as excited, if not more excited than we are to see that game played there," said Zobrist, a Eureka, Ill. native. "It's been a long time. They've been waiting patiently and they deserve to have these games played there. Hopefully we can get some Ws there for them. We know it's gonna be electric and a really fun atmosphere."

The Cubs understand what this moment means for their fans. They've also heard the narratives and they don't care.

"We are very much aware of everything that's gone on in the past, but we have to live in the present otherwise you'll never be able to get to this juncture in the season," Maddon said. "So I really am impressed whatever I've read or have heard, the respect our players have shown about every part of this entire situation, organizationally, city-wide, fanbase, all that stuff. I think our players have been outstanding in the way they've handled all that. But at the end of the day, you want to get on that field for the last out, and you want to celebrate among each other.

"I mean, we've been after this for a bit, like everybody else has. We've been after it a bit. Last year started, this year Spring Training. All season long people have been after us, and our guys are still standing. Give them a lot of credit for that. Like Manolo just pointed out, pretty young team on the field last night."

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The Cubs' batting order for Game 2 at Progressive Field featured six players age 24 or younger, which marked a postseason record. One of those men included designated hitter Kyle Schwarber, who made a surprise return in Game 1 after suffering a significant knee injury in the third game of the regular season.

Although Schwarber wasn't medically cleared by doctors to play the field for Games 3-5 at Wrigley Field, he will be available to come off the bench and pinch hit.

As if the crowd didn't have something to cheer about already, they won't have to wait long to recognize Schwarber for his return, as player introductions will take place prior to Game 3.

"It's going to be great," Schwarber said. "I remember just walking out on the line, when I first got injured, and back for the first playoff game and everything like that, they welcomed me very well. This time, you know, I'm just going to embrace the moment.

"It's going to be awesome. It's the World Series at Wrigley Field. It's going to be electric. It's going to be a fun atmosphere. So I'll definitely soak it in."

Count Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein among those excited to see how loud Wrigley will get when Schwarber runs out of the dugout after his named is called.

"I'll let it speak for itself," Epstein said. "I mean, we were here on Opening Day when he walked out with one crutch, and it was deafening. I think our fans also have a special connection with Kyle, and I'm sure they'll take advantage of the opportunity to let him know how much they appreciate him tomorrow night. Hopefully during the game, too."