FORT WAYNE – Notre Dame’s path to a BCS bowl is crystal clear after Saturday’s 20-13 overtime win over Stanford at home.
Notre Dame opened at No. 5 in the season’s first BCS standings Sunday, and as along as the Irish stay in the top eight in the final standings, they automatically earn a spot in a BCS bowl.
Notre Dame can also be selected for a BCS bowl if it finishes the season in the top 14.
Alabama, Florida, Oregon and Kansas State were all in front of Notre Dame in the first poll. Florida was the highest ranked team by the computers, and Notre Dame was No. 2 in the computer rankings.
The Irish also moved into the top five in the Associated Press Top 25 and USA Today coaches poll for the first time since 2006.
Notre Dame, which is 6-0 for the first time since 2002, is No. 5 in both polls.
There’s no question that when you’re talked about and you’re putting Notre Dame up there in the top five, there’s a sense of pride, coach Brian Kelly said during his Sunday afternoon teleconference before the standings were released.
I just have to make sure that they understand that with that pride comes a greater obligation to do the thing the right way. I think that’s how we’ll handle it.
Notre Dame has handled a lot in the first half of the season.
The Irish are the only team to defeat three ranked opponents this year, beating then-No. 10 Michigan State 20-3 on Sept. 15, then-No. 18 Michigan 13-6 on Sept. 22 and Stanford, which fell from No. 17 to No. 22 in Sunday’s AP Top 25.
Notre Dame has also put together one of the program’s best defensive performances to start a season.
The Irish have not given up an offensive touchdown in their last four games, rank No. 2 in scoring defense (8.7 points per game) and their 15 turnovers (10 interceptions, five fumble recoveries) are one more than they had all of last season.
The sky is the limit, left tackle Zack Martin said Saturday. Our defense speaks for themselves. Every week they come in and dominate their opponent. Offensively, we just got to get started earlier, but we know we have the guys and the schemes to beat up on people.
The Irish didn’t come out of Saturday’s win over Stanford unscathed, though. Quarterback Everett Golson suffered a concussion on the helmet-to-helmet hit late in the fourth quarter that brought in Tommy Rees to help lead the Irish to the victory.
Golson is also dealing with a turf toe injury he suffered in the second quarter of Notre Dame’s 41-3 win over Miami on Oct. 6.
Kelly said Golson was suffering from concussion symptoms Sunday, but he expects the sophomore to be cleared by Tuesday’s practice when the Irish start preparing for Saturday’s visit from BYU (4-3).
If Golson cannot play this weekend, Kelly said Rees and Andrew Hendrix would play.
We really can’t do anything with them physically until all the symptoms are cleared, then the cognitive testing has to take place, Kelly said. We expect (Golson) to be able to pass his cognitive test, and if does that, then we begin light exercise. If there’s no reoccurrence of any headaches, then we clear him. If he doesn’t get cleared Tuesday, we repeat the process. The only thing he’s at risk of, if he’s not cleared Tuesday, he loses a lot of rep work Tuesday.