For Notre Dame, style points don't matter. Even if the Irish win out, they'll need help to ascend to the top two of the BCS rankings, and thus earn a bid to the national championship.
So Saturday's 29-26 triple-overtime win over Pittsburgh only matters in that it was a win. Even with wins over Boston College, Wake Forest and USC, the only avenue for Notre Dame to reach the title game involves a loss from two of Alabama, Oregon and Kansas State.
Oregon jumped ahead of Notre Dame in the latest BCS rankings, with the Ducks becoming the first team to ever score 60 or more points on USC in a win Saturday night. Alabama, which staged an impressive final drive to beat LSU at Death Valley, held at No. 1, and K-State's win over Oklahoma State kept the Wildcats at No. 2.
Notre Dame held steady at No. 4 in the coaches and AP polls, to no surprise, keeping the Irish as the lowest-ranked serious title contender at this point (Louisville, thanks to a weak Big East schedule, isn't in the discussion). And thanks to Oregon's win over USC, a Notre Dame win in Los Angeles to end the season would likely push the Trojans out of the top 25. USC sits at No. 19 in the BCS, No. 22 in the coaches poll and at No. 21 in the AP.
All this adds up to what will be a tense final few weeks for Notre Dame. While everyone not in uniform will keep their eyes trained to the scoreboard and their smartphones, Notre Dame players insist they aren't keeping tabs on what's happening in Tuscaloosa, Eugene and Manhattan.
"When you start paying attention to other teams, you forget what the main thing is, your team," linebacker Manti Te'o said. "Those other teams don't affect you. The only thing that affects you is you."