College football: Irish coach Brian Kelly won’t let BCS talk get to his players heads
By Mark Lazerus Sun-Times Media October 30, 2012 11:04PM
Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly during an NCAA college football game against Oklahoma in Norman, Okla., Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
The Big Number
Notre Dame has won all nine games it’s played under Brian Kelly in which it did not commit a turnover.
Oklahoma was the third this year.
Brian Kelly came to Notre Dame with a history of using fast-moving, quick-strike offenses. But this year, the Irish ground game has been very effective at controlling the clock. The Irish are 14th in the nation in time of possession, and dominated the clock for key stretches at Oklahoma. That said, Kelly wants to see the Irish run more plays while holding the ball. He pointed to QB Everett Golson taking too much time off the play clock before calling for the snap, and said the coaches need to call more plays that don’t require a check at the line of scrimmage.
“The time of possession versus the amount of plays that you run are numbers that we look at,” Kelly said. “We want our time of possession to equal a certain amount of plays. And we’re falling a little behind that matrix. We need to continue to possess the football but we have to run more plays.”
Updated: December 1, 2012 4:50PM
SOUTH BEND — A big part of Brian Kelly’s job as head coach at Notre Dame is to keep his players from letting their minds wander to thoughts of national championships, and BCS standings, and power polls and rankings and all the other “noise,” as Kelly puts it, that the Irish can’t control.
But another part of Kelly’s job is to pay attention to all those things himself, whether he wants to or not.
Hint: He doesn’t.
“It’s a daily thing,” Kelly said of his visits from sports information director Brian Hardin to discuss the polls, and who’s playing whom this week, and who needs to lose in order for the Irish to better their position in the standings. “Bugs the hell out of me, quite frankly.”
Better get used to it. The topic’s unlikely to change anytime soon.
After opening the season with eight straight games of some magnitude — be it the trip to Ireland, the home opener, the Shamrock Series game at Soldier Field, three prime-time games against ranked opponents, or back-to-back clashes with elite defenses in Stanford and BYU — and winning them all, the Irish enter a somewhat soothing stretch of seemingly sure things. It starts this Saturday with a home game against 4-4 Pittsburgh, then a trip to 2-6 Boston College, then a home game against 4-4 Wake Forest. Not exactly Murderer’s Row.
The assumption is the Irish will head to Southern California for the season finale on Thanksgiving weekend with their perfect record and national championship hopes intact. But the question is whether 12-0 will be enough to get the Irish into the BCS championship game.
The prevailing opinion of those in the BCS projection business is that a perfect Notre Dame team (currently No. 3 in the BCS standings) will not finish ahead of a perfect Alabama team (currently No. 1) or a perfect Oregon team (No. 4). A perfect Kansas State team (No. 2) is tougher to slot.
So, yes, Kelly is aware that the Irish would benefit greatly if LSU could knock off Alabama on Saturday. Of if Oregon could stumble at USC. Or if Oklahoma State could upset Kansas State.
But if everyone keeps winning, you won’t hear Kelly — a guy with a degree in political science, mind you — electioneering for a better result at the polls.
“I got out of politics once,” he said. “I’m not getting back in it.”
In the beauty pageant of the BCS, it doesn’t help the Irish that they tend to win ugly, low-scoring defensive slugfests. There’s simply more sex appeal in Oregon’s thrill-a-minute offense than Notre Dame’s kill-the-minutes ground game.
Kelly’s not going to change the way his team does business at this point, though. Not when business is so brisk.
“In an ideal world, yeah, if all of your games were blowouts, that is the way you’d want them to be designed,” he said. “The reality of it is, it’s clear that you want to win your games and you want to win them in convincing fashion. But there is nothing that we’ll do practically that will emphasize that in any way. It kind of becomes a moot point for us to even discuss it.”
For a few more weeks, at least, everyone else will continue discussing it, though.
And Kelly, begrudgingly, will have to keep listening to it.