The postgame roars from Notre Dame’s locker room echoed right through the Los Angeles Coliseum’s thick cement walls and metal beams Saturday night, moving around the 89-year-old arena like a long-absent force of nature.
After decades away, the Fighting Irish are back on top of college football — unmatched in the rankings, unblemished in the standings, and unequivocally ready for a chance to end a 24-year national championship drought.
Manti Te’o, the star linebacker from Hawaii who led this improbable revival season, took a moment to listen to those echoes.
‘‘This is where you want to be when you go to Notre Dame,’’ he said.
The Irish are No. 1 again — a Golden Dome atop their sport.
Notre Dame (12-0) beat Southern California, 22-13, to complete its first unbeaten regular season since 1988. That’s also the last championship year for the school that produced a legion of the sport’s most memorable figures: Knute Rockne, the Four Horsemen, Paul Hornung, and Joe Montana — heck, even Rudy Ruettiger.
A no-nonsense win over Notre Dame’s intersectional rivals in Los Angeles capped a year of historic dominance for a defense led by Te’o, its inspirational Heisman contender. That defense allowed just nine touchdowns all season long, capped by four downs of unyielding play while backed up to its goal line by the Trojans in the final minutes.
‘‘You just put the ball down in front of us, and if there’s time on the clock, we’re never going to give up,’’ defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore said.
These Irish never flinched, either in dire late-game circumstances or under the weight of history that has crushed decades of previous Notre Dame teams. After beginning the year unranked and projected for maybe eight victories by optimistic pundits, the Irish produced a marvelous season of old-fashioned, hard-nosed football amid the wacky spread offenses and garish uniforms that dominate the sport these days.
After winning half of their games by 9 points or fewer, including two hair-raising escapes in overtime, it’s clear these Irish have something else going for them as well.
‘‘Not saying it was lucky, but luck doesn’t hurt,’’ said Terry Brennan, who played at Notre Dame in the late 1940s.
The Irish have six weeks to prepare for the BCS title game on Jan. 7, but coach Brian Kelly’s restoration of the Notre Dame mystique could linger much longer.
For the second straight week, Notre Dame is No. 1 across the board — in the Associated Press Top 25, the coaches poll, and the all-important BCS standings.
No. 2 Alabama and No. 3 Georgia, both easy winners in rivalry games Saturday, held their spots, and will play for the SEC title Saturday.
The winner is pretty much a lock to move on to Miami for the BCS championship game Jan. 7, trying to extend the SEC’s string of titles to seven.
But will the right SEC team be getting a shot? Florida coach Will Muschamp doesn’t think so.
‘‘We should be playing for the national championship,’’ he said after the Gators beat Florida State, 37-26, in Tallahassee Saturday.
He’s got a point.
The Gators (11-1) checked in at No. 4 in the AP poll and BCS standings.
Their lone loss was to Georgia and it was enough to settle the SEC East.
But playing in the same division doesn’t mean playing the same competition. Not even close in these days of expanding conferences.
The Gators have clearly played a tougher schedule than the Bulldogs. The Sagarin computer ratings have Florida’s strength of schedule at 13th in the nation. Georgia’s is 42d.
Florida also played No. 9 LSU and No. 10 Texas A&M as its two SEC West opponents, combined record 20-4. Georgia played Auburn and Mississippi from the west, combined record 9-15.
The top nine teams in the BCS standings remained unchanged from a week ago, with Oregon, Kansas State, LSU, Stanford, and Texas A&M holding their ground. South Carolina moved up two spots to round out the Top 10.
No. 17 Kent State (11-1) is just one place away from earning a spot in a BCS bowl after moving up six places this week.
The Golden Flashes play No. 21 Northern Illinois in the MAC championship Friday. If the winner moves up to No. 16 and remains ahead of a conference champion from an automatic-qualifying school, it will crash the BCS party.
There is no Big East team in the BCS standings, and there is room for Kent State to move up if No. 16 UCLA loses to No. 8 Stanford in the Pac-12 Championship Friday and No. 18 Texas loses at No. 6 Kansas State.
No. 20 Boise State also has a chance to break into the top 16.