After routing rival USC on Saturday, Notre Dame has found itself one of the most talked-about teams in the nation.
Coaches from around the country, like Miami’s Mark Richt, said they’ve taken notice of Notre Dame’s recent play. National analysts, like CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd, have discussed the Irish as a College Football Playoff contender. Even ESPN analyst Paul Finebaum set aside his well-documented dislike for Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly to pay the team a compliment.
At his press conference Tuesday, Kelly was asked if the sudden spotlight being shown on the Irish worries him.
Kelly said no; that while the rest of the country has only recently started discussing Notre Dame as a Playoff contender, the pressure is nothing new.
That has been Kelly’s expectation for the team all season.
“Our mission from day one is to win a national championship,” Kelly said. “You guys are just catching up to us.”
Kelly pointed out that, at Notre Dame, there can be no other preseason goal. Since the Irish aren’t in a conference, they don’t have another championship to shoot for at season’s end besides a national championship.
“We don’t have anything else to play for,” Kelly said. “We’re an independent football team, and our mission is to graduate all of our players and play for a national championship. That’s all we have.”
While Notre Dame may have gained esteem in the eyes of the nation by beating USC, the Irish can’t afford to dwell on the win. This week, Notre Dame will face No. 14 N.C. State, which hasn’t lost since Week 1 and will be coming off a bye.
Kelly praised N.C. State, but he said the game won’t feel any bigger to the Irish than any of their last five — all of which the team has won by 20 points or more. Because of Notre Dame’s national-championship-or-bust mindset, Kelly said the Irish have viewed every game since their Week 2 loss to Georgia as a must-win in order to keep their Playoff hopes alive.
“We’ve been in the Playoffs since we lost to Georgia,” Kelly said. “Every game is a Playoff for us. Everybody is talking about, you know, getting to the Playoffs, getting to the Playoffs. Every game we play is a Playoff game.
“Our guys don’t know it any other way.”
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