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."