Kelly doesn’t know whether No. 15 Irish have playoff shot
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) Coach Brian Kelly hopes No. 15 Notre Dame still has a shot at the college football playoff if the Fighting Irish win the rest of their games.
He’s not sure.
”I don’t know, but we do know what we can control and that is winning each week,” Kelly said Tuesday. ”So what we really talked about is we have no margin for error. We have to pay attention to every detail. It was really about the focus of this group is one week at a time.”
Following the disappointing loss at Clemson, when Notre Dame (4-1) lost 24-22 after a failed 2-point conversion attempt with seven seconds left, the Irish will try to resuscitate their season against unbeaten Navy (4-0). Kelly knows how he wants the Irish to respond.
”The response is to win,” he said. ”To win football games, you have to start fast, which we did not. There has to be an attention to detail, which certainly we were missing that at times. We got great effort, and we finished strong. So we were missing two of the four real key components that I’ll be looking for this weekend.”
A year ago, eventual national champion Ohio State was 4-1 and ranked No. 15, and it steadily climbed in the polls and was seeded fourth at the end of the season. So there is hope.
The bad news for the Irish is the Buckeyes are the only team to win a national championship in the past 15 years to be ranked that low after five games. The next closest was Florida in 2008, which was 4-1 and ranked No. 11.
Kelly knows what it’s like for the Irish to not have control of their own destiny. Heck, three years ago the Irish were 11-0 and looked like they might not play in the BCS title game because they were behind top-ranked Oregon and No. 2 Kansas State – then both those teams lost on the same night and Notre Dame vaulted to No. 1.
The Irish won’t truly know where they stand this season until the first College Football Playoff selection committee rankings are released on Nov. 3. They know they have to finish in the top four in the final standings to advance to the playoff.
Four previous Notre Dame teams have lost one game and finished outside the top four in the final regular-season rankings. That includes 1977, when the Irish were 10-1 and ranked No. 5 but still won the national championship when they upset Texas 38-10 in the Cotton Bowl.
Keeping playoff possibilities alive isn’t the only concern. A year ago, the Irish started the season 6-0 before losing a tough road game at Florida State when an apparent go-ahead touchdown with 13 seconds left was called back because of a pass interference penalty. The Irish won the next week against Navy, then their season unraveled as they lost their last four.
Kelly said he’s confident the Irish are better prepared this year.
”The leadership is different. The players are different,” he said.
He’s hoping the outcome is different as well.