(USATODAY) - A bunch of friends and family gathered in the theater room of Brian Kelly's home in Granger, Ind., on Saturday evening. Notre Dame had just beaten Wake Forest to move within one victory of a perfect regular season. And the night would get better.
As they watched, Kansas State's and Oregon's bids for perfect seasons crashed and burned. And as the Wildcats and Ducks went down, the audience a dozen or so was not passive. According to Kelly, they were "cheering quite loudly."
BCS STANDINGS: Where the teams rank
Did that include the coach?
"Heck, yeah!" Kelly said and with very good reason.
Another nutty, topsy-turvy weekend in college football paved the way for Notre Dame's ascent to No. 1 in the Bowl Championship Series standings for the first time ever. With a victory Saturday at Southern Cal, the Fighting Irish would play for a national championship for the first time since 1988.
Suddenly, we're looking at a possible matchup of Notre Dame and No. 2 Alabama, two of college football's most historic programs. And look who's right behind the Crimson Tide in the standings: Georgia and Florida.
After a week spent contemplating whether the Southeastern Conference could possibly be left out of the BCS Championship game, unable to defend its streak of six consecutive national championships, the prospect for a second consecutive all-SEC showdown isn't at all far-fetched.
Maybe nothing is. Which is why Kelly wasn't celebrating Sunday.
"It doesn't mean much if you're No. 1 for just three or four days," he said.
Just ask Kansas State, which was stunned 52-24 by a mediocre Baylor bunch. Or Oregon, which would have moved into the top spot but instead lost 17-14 in overtime at home to No. 8 Stanford. It was the first time teams ranked Nos. 1 and 2 lost on the same day since 2007. But No. 5 Oregon and No. 6 Kansas State aren't necessarily out of the picture.
The Ducks and Wildcats need help. Neither team controls its destiny. But a look back at 2007, when Missouri and West Virginia lost on the final day of the season, teaches we shouldn't count on anything yet. Five years? Go back five minutes.
Alabama is heavily favored to beat rival Auburn, which would propel the defending national champion into the SEC Championship game against No. 3 Georgia on Dec. 1. Notre Dame is likewise favored against the slumping Trojans.
But Alabama was expected to beat Texas A&M. Kansas State was supposed to whip Baylor. Oregon was favored against Stanford. And to pick only one game of several in Notre Dame's so-far magical season, the Irish needed three overtimes a few weeks back to survive Pittsburgh.
It's no wonder that, asked several times in several different ways Sunday afternoon about Georgia's favorable position in the chase at 10-1, the Bulldogs need only to beat Georgia Tech and win the SEC championship to advance to Miami Mark Richt kept repeating slight variations of one line:
"Right at this minute, all I can think about is Georgia Tech," the coach said.
Asked to confirm that he watched the upsets, which took place long after Georgia's afternoon romp over FCS opponent Georgia Southern, Richt said:
"You know, I was thinking about Tech, knowing what a big game it is."
And he's correct: It's huge. So is the Iron Bowl for Alabama, never mind Auburn's continuing struggles.
Meanwhile, Notre Dame must win only once, and it doesn't matter how. After spending most of the season struggling to gain the respect of voters in the various polls the Irish, who have won five games by a touchdown or less, weren't winning as impressively as some of the other contenders cosmetic appeal no longer matters.
"Now we don't have to answer the questions about style points or politics or anything like that," Kelly said. "We get a chance to play for the national championship provided we win this week."
But that's been the trouble, this season and most seasons in the BCS era, where chaos is something less than the rule but is far more than a theory. For potential pandemonium, try this zany scenario:
-- USC beats Notre Dame.
-- Georgia Tech beats Georgia, which beats Alabama.
-- Florida State beats Florida.
-- Oregon State beats Oregon.
Who goes to Miami then?
And to complete the fun, Ohio State remember the unbeaten Buckeyes? beats Michigan.
Though ineligible for the BCS championship because of NCAA sanctions, Ohio State might finish atop the Associated Press poll. The necessary combination of events for that scenario, or several others, is unlikely.
None of it matters if Notre Dame and either Alabama or Georgia win out. But as we've seen, that's easier to forecast than accomplished, which is why Kelly and the Irish were focused Sunday on one thing.
"We've been given this opportunity," Kelly said. "We've got to make the best out of it by beating USC."