Notre Dame is a victory away from playing for the BCS title. Alabama and Georgia each need two, and could have to go through each other.

A day after Oregon and Kansas State lost to give up control of the BCS race, the Fighting Irish (.9973) moved into first place in the standings for the first time.

"Now we don't have to answer questions about style points or politics," Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said. "Now we have a chance to play for the national championship this week."

Notre Dame (11-0), ranked No. 1 in both polls and by the computer ratings, needs only to beat slumping Southern California on Saturday in Los Angeles to earn its first trip to the BCS title game. USC quarterback Matt Barkley will miss the Trojans' regular-season finale with a sprained right shoulder, coach Lane Kiffin said.

Alabama (.9333) and Georgia (.8763) also have rivalry games Saturday. The Crimson Tide hosts Auburn and the Bulldogs play Georgia Tech at home.

If the favorites win, the SEC championship game will be a national semifinal of sorts, with the winner advancing to the BCS title game. If form does not hold, there are a handful of teams that could be in the mix.

Florida (10-1) is in fourth heading into a game at No. 10 Florida State. The Seminoles (10-1) also will have an ACC title game to play.

Oregon (10-1) dropped to fifth and Kansas State (10-1) was sixth.

Vols fire Dooley

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Tennessee coach Derek Dooley was fired Sundayafter posting a 15-21 record in three seasons that lacked wins over ranked opponents and SEC foes. Dooley was 4-19 in SEC games. -- AP