Kelly says Notre Dame's season won't be diminished if Irish finish undefeated without title

Coach Brian Kelly says he doesn't believe third-ranked Notre Dame's season will be lessened if the Fighting Irish finish the season undefeated and don't win a national championship.

"I would tell our players that everything that was within their control, they handled and that they're champions because of it. A pollster or computer rankings really can't diminish what you've accomplished," Kelly said Wednesday in an interview with The Associated Press. "I can tell you this, the ring will still be as big. Now, we may not have that crystal ball down there, but we'll have a lot of signage."

Kansas State (.9674) is in first in the BCS standings, followed by Oregon (.9497) and Notre Dame (.9396). If things remain that way through the end of the season, Kansas State and Oregon would play for the national championship and the Irish (10-0) would be left out.

Kelly said he believes Kansas State and Oregon are higher in the standings simply because they started the season higher in the rankings and have stayed there.

He said the main reason the Wildcats are ahead of the Irish is because: "They got to Oklahoma before we did."

The Wildcats beat Oklahoma 24-19 on Sept. 22. The Irish beat the Sooners 30-13 on Oct. 27.

"If you just pulled Kansas State out and looked at their schedule and who they beat and you pulled Notre Dame out and you looked at them, I think a reasonable person would say, 'I think I can see Notre Dame being ahead of Kansas State in this situation.'"

It wouldn't be the first time Kelly has had an undefeated team that missed out playing for a national championship. Cincinnati finished the regular-season 12-0 and finished third in the BCS standings. Kelly accepted the job at Notre Dame and the Bearcats, playing without Kelly, lost 51-24 to fifth-ranked Florida in the Sugar Bowl. Alabama won the national championship that season.

Kelly said just like that year, he's focused only on what he and the Irish can control. If the Irish finish the season unbeaten, it will be a special season, Kelly said.

"Undefeated seasons are magical," he said. "You don't need to be validated by polls. Because you have done everything you could have done."