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SOUTH BEND – Of the masses that stormed the field of Notre Dame Stadium following the dramatic Fighting Irish victory over Stanford on Saturday, it would be hard to find a non-believer in this team. But of those that sat in the dry comfort of the press box, there must be a few.
That is because when the initial Bowl Championship Series (BCS) standings were released Sunday evening, the computers had a lot more faith in Notre Dame (6-0) than the polls did.
The average ranking of the Irish was second according to the computers, but fifth overall once the computers and two polls (Harris Interactive and USA Today) were combined.
“I normally don't gauge the interest in these things with our football team,” Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said. “(But) They watch TV. They see that (BCS rankings). There is a sense of pride. There is no question that when you are talked about and you are putting Notre Dame up there in the top five, there is a sense of pride.”
Ironically, if Notre Dame can continue to win, its confidence within the polls and the computers could head in opposite directions. The Irish still have challenging road games with Oklahoma (9th in the BCS poll) and USC (10th), but games with Brigham Young, Wake Forest, and Pittsburgh will more than likely lower their stature with the computers, which factor in strength of schedule.
“We are getting there,” Notre Dame All-American Manti Te'o said of being a championship squad. “We are going to continue to work. I think that is the thing that makes us a championship team is that we are never satisfied.”
Reaching the level of a championship program is what Kelly has emphasized within the philosophy of this program since he arrived in South Bend 32 months ago and he continues to do so daily with his players.
“We talk more about being a championship program and let the rest take care of itself,” Kelly said. “(The BCS ranking) Is not written down. We specifically talk about – we don't have a tie-in obviously from a conference standpoint – if we are talking about post-season, the only thing that we would talk about is the Bowl Championship Series.”
The Irish will receive an automatic BCS bid if it finishes in the top eight in the poll and still would be eligible if it were rated among the top 14 teams. However, as he has all season, Kelly continues to preach focus on a daily basis with his team, and is not worried at this time about where he finishes the season.
“I just have to make sure that (the players) understand that with that pride comes a greater obligation to do this thing the right way.”
Kelly on BCS: