After a weekend of major upsets, Notre Dame (11-0), the only undefeated, bowl-eligible FBS team, moved up to No. 1 in the nation Sunday by all three ratings -- the USA Today coaches poll, the Associated Press media poll and, most important, the BCS standings.
Alabama (10-1) is second and Georgia (10-1) third in both polls and the BCS standings.
"Now we don't have to answer the questions about style points or politics or anything like that," Fighting Irish coach Brian Kelly said, according to the Chicago Tribune. "We get a chance to play for the national championship provided we win this week."
The top two teams in the BCS standings will play for the national championship on Jan. 7 in Miami.
It is the first time since 1993 that Notre Dame is ranked No. 1. The Fighting Irish collected all 60 first-place votes in the AP poll, and Notre Dame got 56 of 59 first-place votes in the coaches poll. Alabama received two first-place votes and Georgia one from the coaches.
The Irish, with a .9973 rating, are a clear No. 1 in the BCS standings. Alabama is next at .9333, followed by Georgia at .8763. Rounding out the top five are No. 4 Florida (10-1) at .8434 and No. 5 Oregon (10-1) at .8318.
Although Notre Dame scored a 38-0 victory over Wake Forest on Saturday, the Fighting Irish have not been dominant during a season that includes six wins by seven points or fewer, three of those by three points. Notre Dame needed three overtimes to beat Pitt, 29-26, and another overtime to get past Stanford, 20-13.
The Fighting Irish will have a chance to validate their top ranking Saturday when they visit talent-laden, and previously top-ranked, Southern California. The Trojans are only 7-4 after a 38-28 loss to cross-town rival UCLA, and coach Lane Kiffin announced Sunday night that quarterback Matt Barkley, a former Heisman Trophy front-runner, will not play against the Irish because of a sprained right shoulder
Even so, USC will test Notre Dame's defense with a talented set of wide receivers, led by another Heisman Trophy candidate, Marqis Lee. The Trojans will plug in 6-foot-4, 235-pound freshman quarterback Max Wittek, who has completed 8 of 9 passes this season.
Speaking of his players, Kelly said, "They all, to a man, know that it doesn't mean much if you're No.1 for just three or four days. So they understand the importance of the USC game. I was happy to see that they had that kind of maturity to know that it's all about how we play against USC."
Alabama faces rival Auburn in a home game Saturday, while Georgia plays host to nonconference foe Georgia Tech. Should the Crimson Tide win Saturday, Alabama would face Georgia in the SEC championship game the following weekend, with the winner presumably advancing to the national title game.
Georgia coach Mark Richt refused comment on the BCS standings, despite fielding numerous questions from reporters.
"Right now, all I can think about is Georgia Tech," he said, according to the Macon Telegraph.
Notre Dame can thank others for plenty of help to pave the way from No. 3 to No. 1.
Kansas State (10-1) was blasted out the BCS's No. 1 spot by Baylor, 52-24, Saturday afternoon and fell to No. 6. Then, Saturday night, then-No. 2 Oregon saw its 54-points-per-game offense stopped by a sturdy Stanford defense, 17-14 in overtime.
Stanford (9-2) edged up from No. 13 to No. 8 in the BCS standings.