SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- There was no letdown, no signs of a trap, no heart-pounding finish, as there were in Waco and Eugene. Notre Dame's 38-0 win over Wake Forest was the first blowout the Irish built in South Bend, and it teed up next week's crucial matchup against USC in Los Angeles with an berth in the BCS Championship on the line.
With Kansas State's 52-24 loss to Baylor and Oregon's 17-14 loss to Stanford, it'll be with a BCS Championship berth on the line for the Irish, which will sit at No. 1 when the BCS standings are released Sunday. After Notre Dame's 38-0 win over Wake Forest, most players said they'd either have a passing interest or no interest at all in what Kansas State and Oregon were to do Saturday night.
"I'm not going to worry about it," linebacker Manti Te'o said. "I could literally just go eat, go to sleep, and wake up tomorrow and figure out what happened. I'm not too concerned."
Bet that stance has changed. Saturday was the first time since 2007 both Nos. 1 and 2 in the BCS have lost on the same weekend.
When Notre Dame sits at No. 1 in the poll Sunday, it'll be the first time the Irish have occupied the top spot in the AP poll since 1993. Notre Dame has never been No. 1 in a BCS poll.
That No. 1 ranking means all the Irish will have to do to reach the BCS Championship is beat USC, which lost 38-28 to crosstown rival UCLA Saturday. Adding misery to an already-disappointing season in Los Angeles was an injury to quarterback Matt Barkley, who reportedly suffered a separated shoulder against UCLA.
It was Notre Dame that was supposed to have the disappointing season, the one that put its coach on the hot seat. Not USC. But the script has played out with the roles reversed, with plenty calling for Kiffin's head in California while others effusively praising Kelly in Indiana. Notre Dame-USC will have championship implications, but not for the team most would've expected in August.
Despite an 11-0 record, Notre Dame has sat on the outside looking in of the BCS Championship picture for the entire season. First and foremost, Notre Dame needed to win out, but just as crucial to the team's title hopes was for the teams ahead of them to lose.
Texas A&M took care of half that equation last weekend, beating then-No. 1 Alabama in Tuscaloosa. On Saturday, it was Baylor downing K-State in Waco and Stanford winning in overtime on the road against Oregon.
"Coach has been telling us it's all going to work itself out, we just need to take care of what we can take care of," Notre Dame wide receiver John Goodman said. "That's what we did tonight, last week and the weeks before. So we're 11-0, that's all that really matters right now, we're going to go into USC 11-0 and hopefully leave 12-0."
A lack of style points -- or, more accurately, a few nail-biting home wins against lesser competition -- has been part of the reason why Notre Dame hasn't been among the top two teams in the BCS standings this year. At 11-0, though, Notre Dame players were far more concerned with their unblemished record than margin of victory.
"Where the hell did style points come from?" defensive tackle Louis Nix asked rhetorically. "I hate that. I don't believe in style points. I believe in winning, and that's what you do playing football. You don't need to do style points."
Notre Dame put up style points Saturday, with Everett Golson leading the way. The redshirt freshman completed 20 of 30 passes for 346 yards and three touchdowns in his best collegiate game, and Cierre Wood added 150 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries.
Still, Irish wide receiver T.J. Jones -- who caught six passes for 97 yards and a touchdown -- insisted "style points, to me, are irrelevant."
With K-State and Oregon's losses, those style points became exactly what Jones said they are -- irrelevant.
As Notre Dame climbed the BCS standings, coach Brian Kelly preached taking things one game at a time and not looking ahead to a larger goal. That cliche took on real meaning after Notre Dame nearly lost to Pittsburgh a week after beating Oklahoma by 17 in Norman, and it's one that'll persist among Irish coaches and players heading into Los Angeles.
"Our guys know what's at stake now," Kelly said after Notre Dame's win and before the two monumental losses ahead of them Saturday night. "This is about an undefeated season. They cannot do anything else but beat USC. The rest is up to other people to decide."
But Notre Dame has only beaten USC once in the last decade. Despite all the trials and tribulations at USC this year, they remain a talented team, one that certainly could spoil Notre Dame's title hopes on Nov. 24.
"We've got to take care of USC before we can be talking about what to do," linebacker Manti Te'o said. "We've got one more game to go. If we don't beat USC, there is no need to say whether you deserve it or not. You have to beat USC first."