Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly won't have to go on Oprah and stump for his team to make the BCS Championship Game.
The Irish now control their own destiny. There were a few clear winners on Saturday night as the BCS erupted in chaos. Stanford and Baylor got season-defining upsets against Oregon and Kansas State. The SEC went from being totally out of the BCS Championship Game picture to being almost assured one of the two spots once its conference championship is decided.
But nobody was a bigger winner on Saturday than Notre Dame.
The Irish were 11-0 after beating Wake Forest on Saturday afternoon, but a clear third in the BCS standings. They were looking at finishing undefeated and not getting an opportunity to play for a national title. This week, Kelly started a desperate plea to get his team included in the BCS title game and promised to make his case to everyone … including Oprah.
The Irish got the help they needed. With Oregon and Kansas State out of the way, Notre Dame just needs one more win to play for the national title in Miami. While the Irish probably weren't rooting for USC quarterback Matt Barkley to injure himself before next week's regular-season finale, it won't hurt their chances of winning if Barkley can't play because of a shoulder injury. And not only did Notre Dame catch some huge breaks in the BCS title game chase, it played very well against Wake Forest.
Notre Dame led 21-0 in the first quarter and rolled to a 38-0 win. The Irish had 585 yards including 344 passing from Everett Golson and 151 rushing from Cierre Wood. If Notre Dame keeps playing like that, making the BCS Championship Game might not be the ultimate goal. The Irish have a legitimate chance to win that game and take home their first national title for the first time since 1988.
Notre Dame has not been the key piece of the national title conversation this late in a season since 1993. Kelly has built the Irish back into a national title contender, and in only his third season in Notre Dame.
After a crazy Saturday, the Irish can start to dream big.
Here are the rest of the winners and losers from Week 12:
Conference record books: It was a memorable day for Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd, Temple running back Montel Harris and West Virginia running back Tavon Austin, who set records for their respective teams and nearly took down some NCAA records in the process.
Boyd accounted for eight touchdowns — five passing and three rushing — in a 62-48 win over N.C. State and helped the Tigers to their first 10-win regular season since 1981.
Boyd's eight touchdowns against N.C. State set a school and ACC record. He was 30-for-44 for 426 yards and rushed for 105 yards. The combined 531 yards also was a school record.
Harris rushed for a school-record 351 yards and seven touchdowns in the Owls' 63-32 win at Army. Harris, a Boston College transfer who was among the rushing leaders in that conference, was just one touchdown short of the NCAA record for rushing touchdowns in a game and 55 yards short of breaking the single-game rushing record held by former TCU running back LaDainian Tomlinson.
Austin rushed for a school record 344 yards and set a Big 12 record with 572 all-purpose yards in a 50-49 loss to Oklahoma. Austin averaged 16. 4 yards per carry and had two touchdowns runs. He also caught four passes for 82 yards.
Rutgers took a huge step towards a possible Big East title with a 10-3 win at Cincinnati. Rutgers was an underdog, and star running back Jawan Jamison only got four carries because of an ankle injury. Backup Savon Huggins rushed for 180 yards, and the defense did the rest. The offense made some huge mistakes in Cincinnati territory, but the Bearcats never got into the end zone. Cincinnati's only score was a field goal in the final minute.
Vanderbilt: Well, Derek Dooley, Tennessee doesn't always kick the (expletive) out of Vanderbilt, after all. Vanderbilt finished Tennessee's bowl hopes and might have effectively finished Dooley as Tennessee's coach with a decisive win. Surely drawing some motivation from Dooley's postgame comments last year about Tennessee's historical dominance over Vanderbilt, the Commodores' defense played inspired football, and Vanderbilt's offense had a nice showing as well. Vanderbilt is now 7-4 and can get to eight wins by winning its finale against Wake Forest.
Brian DeShane: The senior offensive tackle from Tulsa used senior day to share a very special moment with his girlfriend.
During the pregame senior festivities, the PA announcer asked everyone in attendance to look at the stadium video board for a special announcement. And there was DeShane, on one knee, proposing to his girlfriend Meagan Dickinson. She said "Yes" and Tulsa won, 23-21. Sounds like a good day for that young man.
South Carolina: The flood of weird, useless non-conference games for the SEC this week were presumably meant to give those teams a bit of a break late in the season. For South Carolina, its game against Wofford was a nightmare.
The Gamecocks were without defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, who missed the game with either a foot or knee injury, depending which report you believe. And then South Carolina almost suffered a shocking upset to Wofford. The score was tied 7-7 in the fourth quarter before South Carolina finally pulled away for a 24-7 win. But in the process, quarterback Connor Shaw hurt his left foot and was in a walking boot, according to GamecockCentral.com, although he thinks he can play through the pain next week. This isn't the way South Carolina wanted to tune up for Clemson.
Colby Cameron: Louisiana Tech's star quarterback had thrown an NCAA-record 444 passes without an interception. However, the 445th pass, well, that landed in the hands of a Utah State player in the second quarter. Even though Cameron had his first pick since the Byzantine Era, he did manage to rally his team from a 41-17 deficit and force overtime. Unfortunately, things didn't go the Bulldogs' way in the end.
The Rebels, who would have become bowl eligible with a win, led 28-20 going into the fourth quarter. They led 35-28 when LSU's Odell Beckham returned a punt 89 yards for a touchdown to tie the game. Ole Miss kept its composure and on one big pass moved down to LSU's 16-yard line. The Rebels inexplicably lost 20 yards on its next three plays, and then missed a 53-yard field goal. LSU took over and Jeremy Hill scored a 1-yard touchdown with 15 seconds left. The Rebels, who also will regret turning the ball over four times, can't even feel like they got a moral victory after such a disappointing defeat.
Missouri: The transition to the SEC has been a miserable experience for the Tigers. Mizzou is 2-5 in conference play, so the Tigers needed every nonconference victory it could get to achieve bowl eligibility, including Saturday's game against Syracuse.
But with 20 seconds remaining, the Tigers botched that opportunity and allowed the Orange to take a 31-27 lead and ultimately solidify their own bowl berth. Missouri does have one more game against Texas A&M, but the way the Aggies are playing these days, a win seems a bit unlikely. If Mizzou doesn't win a sixth game, it will be the first time since 2004 that the Tigers will not play in a bowl game.
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Frank Schwab contributed to this report
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