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CHRIS DUFRESNE / ON COLLEGE FOOTBALL

Notre Dame's BCS prospects are not quite golden

The Fighting Irish are rarely passed over for anything good, but at No. 3 in BCS standings, they probably need Kansas State or Oregon to lose to reach title game.

Chris Dufresne

9:10 PM PST, November 11, 2012

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Top-ranked Alabama's stunning-if-you-say-so home defeat Saturday narrowed the national-scope scenarios but also raised the gun barrels of anxiety — especially in South Bend.

The idea that Notre Dame could ever be left out of anything seems preposterous given the school's golden-dome history.

Notre Dame, after all, has its own network contract and is guaranteed a BCS berth any year it finishes in the top eight.

Major bowls can't wait to push other applicants out of the way any year the Fighting Irish meet the nine-win and top-14 ranking minimums.

Things, though, have gotten suddenly serious.

Alabama's loss to Texas A&Manziel bumped three undefeated teams up in the order, the problem being only two can play for the title and No. 3 is Notre Dame.

Kansas State is No. 1 in the BCS for the first time in school history despite being No. 2 in both polls used in the BCS formula.

Oregon is No. 2 despite being No. 1 in the polls and Notre Dame is No. 3 in the BCS despite being No. 1 in the computers.

See how much sense the BCS makes?

Notre Dame is already antsy enough, having not won a national crown since 1988, breaking the numerically ordered sequence following the Irish's titles of 1966 and '77.

What happened in 1999?

There is no beating around the bend that Notre Dame will be snubbed out of the BCS title game if Oregon and Kansas State win out.

Oregon is eye candy in all major indexes and taking care of its remaining schedule would mean defeating Stanford, Oregon State and either UCLA or USC — all ranked in this week's BCS top 20.

Kansas State's only fear in winning out against Baylor and Texas is dropping to No. 2 behind Oregon.

The BCS has given a lot to Notre Dame, but it might also take.

Irish fans can put their complaints in the pile next to USC in 2003, Auburn in 2004, Michigan in 2006 and Utah in 2008.

Are we forgetting anyone?

Notre Dame Coach Brian Kelly grew up in Massachusetts as the son of an alderman. He campaigned for Gary Hart in 1984 and considered politics for a career before opting for the much more cutthroat business of college football.

Kelly promised only last week he would not stoop so low as to campaign for his own team.

"It doesn't do anything," he said. "The only thing that does is winning football games."

But then Alabama lost.

Kelly on Sunday hung up with James Carville and announced he had cast his own vote in the USA Today coaches' poll for — you guessed it — Notre Dame as No. 1.

Kelly has every right to beg for votes the way Urban Meyer did for Florida in 2006.

For one reason, it works.

"I think if you want style points, look at our defense," Kelly said. "Look at the schedule we played, 10 FBS teams."

Notre Dame shares the NCAA lead in scoring defense, with Alabama, at 11 points per game.

Others would point to a recent a triple-overtime squeak-out against Pittsburgh, which just lost to Connecticut.

The numbers just don't add up to jumping Notre Dame over undefeated Oregon or Kansas State.

The BCS is a lousy system — that's why it's being scrapped in 2014.

Notre Dame also should not panic yet because Oregon looks beat up on defense and has three remaining games it could lose.

Kansas State still has Baylor and Texas and, as it concerns Notre Dame, the Irish still have to beat USC.

The up-tempo news is that Notre Dame will not end up in the Pineapple Upside Down Bowl.

If Oregon wins out and finishes No. 1 in the BCS, the undefeated or one-loss Irish could end up in the Rose Bowl game for the first time since the Four Horsemen of 1925.

The Rose Bowl could sub in a Pac-12 team only if it ranked in the BCS top 14. Oregon at 13-0 would leave no Pac-12 school with fewer than three losses.

If Kansas State is No. 1 in the BCS, the Fiesta Bowl would get first crack at Notre Dame.

The BCS is dirty politics.

If anyone should know, it's Brian Kelly.

Weekend wrap

•A stunning performance Saturday lifted a redshirt freshman quarterback to the top of the NCAA's passing ratings. Johnny Manziel of Texas A&M? No, Marcus Mariota of Oregon. Hours after Manziel lifted his team to an upset over No. 1 Alabama, Mariota surgically dissected California in a 59-17 win at Berkeley. Mariota threw six touchdown passes without an interception to vault to the top of the NCAA's passing class. Mariota has completed 71.7% of his passes this year with 28 touchdowns and five interceptions. Manziel is No. 25 in the efficiency ratings.

•Voter ID: Notre Dame garnered a single first-place vote in each of the three major polls but only the Associated Press makes its weekly ballot public. So we can tell you the Irish AP vote was cast by Pete DiPrimio of the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel. Yes, that's in Indiana. Huh? Alabama, despite its first loss Saturday, still received one first-place vote in the coaches' poll. Wonder if he's from SEC territory?

•Out of balance: Louisiana Tech, a 62-55 winner over Texas State on Saturday, ranks No. 1 this week total offense and No. 119 in total defense. Bulldogs quarterback Colby Cameron tossed three more touchdown passes and has 27 for the season. He is the only major college quarterback who has not thrown an interception.

Louisiana Tech is stuck at No. 20 in the BCS but the Bulldogs' hopes of a major bowl bid improved with Louisville's first loss over the weekend. For a full explanation as to what has to happen, refer to pages eight and nine in the BCS media guide or submit a handwritten note to always-pleasant BCS Executive Director Bill Hancock.

chris.dufresne@latimes.com