Brian Kelly: Record ultimate style point

Like any team that has remained unscathed in the loss column by the second week of November, Notre Dame has survived a couple of close calls and gotten a few breaks to fall its way.

The biggest question may be if it can get one more.

That would come in the form of a Kansas State or Oregon loss -- assuming, of course, that the Irish win their next two games.

Coach Brian Kelly would be the last person to assume that, but he has taken one big step this week in saying that he voted his Notre Dame team No. 1.

Kelly said he had the Irish second to Alabama last week before the Crimson Tide's loss to Texas A&M.

"Here's what I do like," he began Sunday, "we've played a tough schedule. Obviously wins on the road against Oklahoma and Michigan State and certainly showing how to beat a tough team in Stanford, those wins are big wins for us. I think we're tested, and I like the way our quarterback is developing, and he's getting better and better each and every week. Those are all positive things."

Where Notre Dame does rank No. 1 is the biggest reason Kelly has his team atop his poll.

"Well, I think you take a look at each team. Each team has its own distinctions. The distinction of this football team, it's the No. 1 scoring defense in the country. It's proven that against very, very good teams all year. We make it very difficult for you to run the football.

"Again, I think if you look at national championship-caliber football, you've got to look at a defense, and so that's why we feel strongly that our football team has put themselves in the discussion. We'll let others decide, but I think we've played our way into the discussion."

The tone was a little amped up from the previous week, when Kelly rationalized that Alabama's and Oregon's recent track records could give them a leg up over the Irish when it comes to rankings.

Now the Tide have fallen, one of two big chips the Irish need to break in their direction, though Kelly won't apologize for coaching a 10-0 team.

That record, he said, is the biggest style point of all.

"Without question," the third-year Irish coach said. "I think if you want style points, look at our defense, look at the schedule that we played, 10 FBS teams. I think it's pretty clear that this football team has been built around its defense, and we've lived up to that each and every week. We'll just keep working on one at a time and let other people figure out where that puts us."