SOUTH BEND, IND.
Notre Dame got one first-place vote in the coaches’ poll last Sunday — head coach Brian Kelly’s.
Against Wake Forest, the Fighting Irish reinforced his faith in his team.
Everett Golson threw three touchdown passes and Cierre Wood scored on a 68-yard run as No. 3 Notre Dame beat Wake Forest 38-0 Saturday to finish the season undefeated at home for the first time since 1998 and keep its national championship hopes alive.
“I told them tonight I’m proud of them,” Kelly said. “I voted them No. 1 for a reason, because I think they’re the best team in the country. I think they played like that tonight.”
Kelly, who saw his 12-0 Cincinnati team left out of the BCS title game in 2009, said he has no doubt his 11-0 team deserves to play for the championship if they win the season finale at Southern California. That’s all he wants his players focused on, he said.
“They cannot do anything else but beat USC,” Kelly said. “The rest is up to other people to decide.”
The reality of that situation is either Oregon or Kansas State — the top two teams in the BCS rankings and, separately, the AP Top 25 — will likely have to lose for Notre Dame to get a place in the championship.
Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe seemed to think the Irish have as much right as anybody to be there.
“No question about it. But maybe a couple of others should be, too. That’s kind of the deal right now,” Grobe said. “I can’t imagine anybody from what I saw today playing any better than Notre Dame. But I think there are some other really, really good teams. They impressed me today. I think there as good as any team in the country.”
Wood got the Irish moving with his 68-yard burst on the game’s fourth play. Golson kept the Irish going with his best passing game of the season. He threw three touchdown passes of 50, 34 and 2 yards in the first half. Fourteen of his 17 first-half completions led to first downs as the Irish opened a 31-0 halftime lead.