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Notre Dame No. 5 in first BCS standings

Published: Monday, Oct. 15, 2012 9:59 a.m. CDT

(MCT) — So iridescent and seductive is the allure of the Bowl Championship Series standings that the thought brought a smile even to Tyler Eifert’s face. Generally, the Notre Dame tight end seems genetically incapable of exuberance. And, OK, the smile was more a slight curl at the corner of his mouth.

But it was there. In thrall of victory Saturday night, greeted with the idea that the Irish would be a top-five BCS team just hours later, Eifert grinned unmistakably, maybe at how far his team had come or how far it could go or some spellbinding combination of the two.

“We haven’t even been close to there,” Eifert said. “So it’s pretty cool.”

What is also pretty clear now that Notre Dame officially sits at No. 5 in the BCS standings released Sunday: The Irish will have space reserved in the top tier of college football’s postseason if they do only what is expected of them, thanks to doing what few expected to date.

A top-eight finish in the final BCS standings guarantees the Irish a berth. A top-14 finish qualifies them for selection, and then the promise of television ratings and a relentless typhoon of tourist money serve as a de facto guarantee for an invite.

If Notre Dame wins only the games in which it is favored from here out, that equals 10 victories. And the chance of a 10-win Notre Dame team finishing outside the top 14 of the final BCS rankings this season?

In a word, says Jerry Palm: “Zero.”

“They only have to be in the top 14,” said Palm, the proprietor of CollegeBCS.com and BCS analyst for CBSSports.com. “And there aren’t going to be many teams with 10-2 records or better. And none of them will be named Notre Dame.

“They’re probably not (top-eight) guaranteed at 10-2, but there is nobody that needs a guarantee less than Notre Dame. Somebody is going to take them. There has to be four other automatically at-large qualified teams in order for that to (not) happen. I can’t imagine how that happens.”

The Irish’s strong suit now and moving forward will be their schedule, which perhaps is not as arduous as most expected — any time now, Big Ten — but currently includes just two teams with losing records (Boston College and Pittsburgh).

The computers, which collectively rank Notre Dame No. 2, love that.

“If the voters have a very clear opinion of you, it’s going to be hard for the computers to overturn that,” Palm said. “But if there are nine or 10 teams with two losses, computers may have more impact, if voters are less decided with a group of teams with similar records.”

While Notre Dame steadfastly refuses to acknowledge the hype swirling around it — the Irish are now ranked fifth in the AP poll, their highest position since September 2006 — mingling with the BCS upper crust feels better than fogging up the window as they stare from the outside, looking in.

“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,” Irish coach Brian Kelly said Sunday. “I just have to make sure that they understand that, with that pride, comes a greater obligation to do things the right way.”

Sunday’s standings, basically, flicked on the beacon in the distance. Kelly said there’s no written goal sheet that includes a BCS bowl berth. He said his spiel revolves around “being a championship program and let the rest take care of itself.”

But he also conceded that, without a conference tie-in, championship football “equals BCS.” So the homestretch of a now-gilded path awaits, six games left against some of the most beatable foes, the easy part and the hard part all at once.

“We know every week, the higher we get,” tackle Zack Martin said, “the bigger bull’s-eye we have on our back.”

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