Brian Kelly waited until the end of the presidential election to start campaigning for a spot in the BCS title game.
The Notre Dame coach made his case on Sunday for a Top 2 spot in the polls that would allow the Fighting Irish (10-0) to play for a national championship. Oregon and Kansas State may be getting a lot of attention with their high-powered offenses, but Kelly said Notre Dame's defense is every bit as impressive.
"Each team has their own distinctions. The distinction of this football team is it's the No.1 scoring defense in the country," he said on a conference call with reporters a day after a 21-6 victory over Boston College helped the Irish move up to No. 3 in The Associated Press Top 25.
"It's proven that against very, very good teams all year. ... 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."
Notre Dame had been the consensus No. 4 team in the country heading into the weekend, with only a remote chance at a national championship until top-ranked Alabama was upset by No. 15 Texas A&M on Saturday. The Irish moved up to No. 3 in the poll released Sunday, still behind new No. 1 Oregon and second-ranked Kansas State.
The Irish were expected to be third when the new BCS standings were released later Sunday.
Alabama dropped to fourth in the AP poll.
Although Kelly had resisted politicking for a better ranking, his new poll position proved too tempting. He said he voted for his own team No. 1 in the USA Today coaches' poll, up from No. 2 last week; it was the only first-place vote for the Irish, who were third in that poll as well.
Kelly's case is that the Irish have allowed 111 points in 10 games, tied with Alabama for fewest in the nation. He also pointed out that Notre Dame has played every game against an FBS foe; Oregon played Tennessee Tech, and Kansas State played Missouri State — both FCS division teams.
Notre Dame has beaten four teams that were ranked at the time the Irish played them: Michigan State and Oklahoma on the road and Michigan and Stanford at home.
The case against Notre Dame is that five of its wins have been by seven points or fewer, including a triple-overtime victory over unheralded Pittsburgh two weeks ago after the Panthers missed a 33-yard field goal to win it. Even the win over Boston College was uninspired: The Eagles are 2-8 and off to their worst start since 1989.
But Kelly noted that BC, the only other Catholic school in the FBS, failed to score a touchdown for the first time this season. Eagles quarterback Chase Rettig is among the national leaders with 2,803 yards passing and 16 touchdowns, but Notre Dame allowed just two field goals in the game.
"If you want style points, look at our defense, look at the schedule that we played: 10 FBS teams," Kelly said. "I think it's pretty clear that this football team has been built around its defense, and we're 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."
Kelly said two players came out of the Boston College game with injuries.
Receiver DeVaris Daniels had surgery on Sunday to repair a broken collarbone and will be out for three or four weeks. He will miss the rest of the regular season but would return for a bowl game, Kelly said.
Defensive back KeiVarae Russell had a head injury.
"It cleared up nicely," Kelly said. "He looks to be on track for practice on Tuesday."