Whichever way you want to take the narrative, the one year admission of the Notre Dame football into the ACC has been a success for the league, and for the Irish. At 10-0, #2 in the country, and on a well-lit path to the college football playoff —it’s hard to argue otherwise.
On Monday, Notre Dame Fighting Irish head coach Brian Kelly took questions from the media about a wide variety of topics. One of those questions was about the impact the ACC has had on Notre Dame and its national championship hopes.
“Well, we got a matchup with the team that’s camped out in the playoffs with Clemson. So, when you’re looking at your schedule and you know that Clemson’s on it and now you’ve gotten the opportunity to join the ACC, obviously it puts you in a pretty good position because we were able to keep our schedule together by the ACC being gracious enough to bring us in this year and then with Clemson on it, it just all fell together really nicely for us. I think those are the two pieces, right? We had Clemson on the schedule, getting the invitation to come in to the ACC, you then start thinking okay, this could workout pretty nicely here, where they’re coming to Notre Dame in November. I think the only dream that didn’t come together is we were hoping for maybe 18 degrees and snow for Clemson and it was a mild night, but it worked out okay.”
Because the Irish are in a conference, the path to the college football playoff runs through the ACC Championship game — and to play the Clemson Tigers for a second time this season. Playing a team a second time around presents new challenges — especially when it’s a team of Clemson’s caliber. Kelly was asked about these challenges:
“There’s certainly pluses and minuses on that, right? I think you learn the strengths and weaknesses of each team. So, maybe what you lose in terms of tendencies and breaking tendencies, you pickup in getting a better in depth knowledge of where to attack and having compliments off of that. I really think it’s a push on both sides. I think maybe this really comes down to, and more than anything else this becomes much more of a physical presence and playmakers making plays, and then the fundamentals. I think in those three areas, physicality, playmakers making plays, and then the fundamentals of the game, those will be on display for us in terms of how we prepare moving forward, than trying to get too involved in out-scheming. I don’t think this game is about who out-schemes who. I think it comes down to those three elements that I just articulated.”
The potential of winning an ACC Championship has the team motivated, and very excited.
“I know they’re really excited about playing for a championship. This is what they’ve wanted. This has been the impetus for them to make all the sacrifices that they have made to get to this point. Living through this pandemic has been very difficult for them, so this is really what they’ve been chasing — the opportunity to win an ACC Championship and to win a National Championship. So, exciting? Yes, absolutely. This is this is what they have been shooting for. From the very first time that the university decided to open up campus, this has been their goal. There will be a lot of excitement, there’s no doubt about that.”
Of course, Brian Kelly first made a name for himself at Grand Valley State where the NCAA Playoffs provided him the chance at a couple of in-season rematches. Kelly will take those experiences in account over the next couple of weeks, and he explained what he learned from those games:
“You win all different ways. I’ll give you an example. Everybody is talking about the double overtime game and what the score is. Don’t get misled. Everyone thinks that this might be a shootout. I think we won that second rematch [Grand Valley State vs. Saginaw State], I think it might have been 14-7 and the first time we played it was a shootout. You learn so much about your opponent, and both both teams do, that sometimes when you play a second time, it makes it hard to move the football because the defense gets the edge in the second time. I’m telling you that right now. Those are probably the things that I’ve learned in the rematches, that the defenses tend to get a little bit of an edge against you because they have seen you and they know a little bit about where they can lean on you a little bit. That’s why it’s about physicality for me. It’s about playmakers making plays and then fundamentals, because these games are generally going to be close, hard fought, and separated by one score and sometimes low scoring games.”
OTHER IMPORTANT NOTES FROM THE PRESSER
- Brendon Clark is having issues with a knee that he injured in high school and will have surgery in the offseason to clean it up. Drew Pyne (as we saw Saturday) is the #2 quarterback.
- Health of the team is good, and there are no concussions to report.
- Team will be on campus through the Christmas break
- Bo Bauer had a contusion on Saturday, but should be able to practice on Wednesday.
- Some high praise for a handful of freshmen including Chris Tyree, Michael Mayer, and Rylie Mills.
- Gameday atmosphere was one of the biggest surprises for Kelly.
You can watch the entire press conference in the player below.