No. 1 Notre Dame looks to the future



SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP)—It has been exactly three years since Notre Dame last was No. 1 in the country. The Fighting Irish lost at home that week to No. 18 Penn State.

With No. 17 Boston College coming to South Bend on a roll this weekend, Lou Holtz is avoiding talk of a New Year’s Day rematch with Florida State and trying to keep his team focused on the regular-season finale.

‘‘There’s really no advantage to being No. 1 whatsoever,’‘ Holtz said after the Irish outmuscled the Seminoles 31-24 on Saturday. ‘‘What it means is people are going to be more motivated to play you. … We aren’t any different. We aren’t No. 1, we’re fighting to be No. 1.’‘

Notre Dame (10-0) arrived unbeaten for college football’s Game of the Year by refusing to look past weaker opponents as Florida State loomed on the schedule.

Now it appears the Irish and Seminoles (9-1) again are on a collision course, and several Notre Dame players said after Saturday’s game they gladly would give Florida State another shot.

Holtz doesn’t believe his team will be ambushed by Boston College (7-2), which has won seven games in a row. He said he would have this message for his team Monday after giving them about 36 hours to celebrate:

‘‘Here’s the situation, and you’re an adult, and you understand it. I don’t have to beat you over the head,’‘ Holtz said. ‘‘You’re the ones that are going to determine the future, and here it is.

‘‘Seniors, this is your last game at home, you’ve got everything going. It’s up to you to get the rest of the football team to understand the importance of this.’‘

A win Saturday would give Holtz his second perfect regular-season record at Notre Dame, matching the accomplishment of the 1988 national champions. It also would be only the third time in the last 44 seasons that the Irish emerged from the regular season unbeaten and untied.

Ara Parseghian’s 1973 national champions are the only other Notre Dame team with a perfect regular-season record since Frank Leahy’s 1949 team went 10-0.

Although the Irish are a unanimous No. 1 in The Associated Press media rankings, two of the 62 coaches voting in the USA Today-CNN poll gave the nod to unbeaten Nebraska.

‘‘I have no problem with that,’‘ said Holtz, who put his team at the top with Florida State and Nebraska tied for second.

‘‘I’m not saying we’re No. 1 in the country. All I’m saying is that we were the best team on Saturday, but not by a whole lot.’‘

Boston College will return to Notre Dame Stadium looking not only to knock off the nation’s No. 1 team, but to avenge last year’s crushing 54-7 loss to the Irish.

Until the Eagles began their current winning streak, they had been 1-4 since losing to Notre Dame on Nov. 7, 1992.

‘‘Last year they hit us at the wrong time,’‘ Holtz said. ‘‘We had one of those games you have maybe once every six years, where everything went well for us. I don’t expect that to happen again.’‘