Before he was a football coach, Brian Kelly was in politics. He used that experience on Saturday when he started politicking for his team’s playoff case following Notre Dame’s 55-0 throttling of Georgia Tech. The Fighting Irish head coach was on the offensive post-game as much as his team was during the game while racking up over 500 yards of offense again this weekend.
“For those that are interested in style points — and I know you don’t like me for this, but I’m not — I covered that one too. I’ve got to be popular today,” Kelly said in his opening statements following the win over Georgia Tech. “So let’s try to get the tough questions out of the way first,” he joked.
Kelly obviously heard the rumblings that the Irish win over Virginia wasn’t impressive enough even though they won by 25 on the road because Brennan Armstrong was unable to play for the Cavaliers. Some wanted Kelly to run up the score more last like as we saw them do on Saturday against Georgia Tech. Last week, however, Kelly and the Irish were content with leaving Charlottesville uncathed after a rash of injuries the previous weeks.
“When you’re really looking for teams with that kind of resume of staying power, of control of a game — and that’s really what you’re looking at. We’ve been in control of games,” Kelly said. “Even the Virginia game. People talk about the quarterback didn’t play, but if you watch that game, we were in control of that game from the start to the finish. So that’s what I like about this team,” he said.
Virginia is fortunate that Notre Dame was content to get out of Charlottesville with the easy win without running it up in the second half. Georgia Tech wasn’t so lucky. Kelly and Notre Dame kept their foot on the gas from start to finish, even letting backup quarterback Tyler Buchner run the full offense with the Irish up 48 points on the helpless Yellow Jackets.
“What Tom and I decided at halftime is we wanted to run the entire offense,” Kelly said even though his team led 45-0 at the half.
The result was a 55-0 victory that is by far the most impressive victory over a bad team on Notre Dame’s resume this year. For much of the season, everyone talked about how Notre Dame struggled with Toledo and Florida State. Well, coming out of the bye, Notre Dame has been a different team and is on the rise. Kelly made sure to note that as well Saturday evening.
“It’s an improving team that continues to do things the right way,” Kelly said of his team. “From an offensive standpoint, the quarterback is effective and efficient. We have one of the best tight ends, if not the best tight end, in the country, an effective running game, and a defense that hasn’t given up a touchdown in three games,” he added.
It’s the first time this year that Kelly openly started making the case for his team in terms of playoff consideration. Until now, Kelly has kind of taken a “let it play out” mentality when asked about rankings and where his team set. Armed with a 55-0 thrashing of a Power 5 opponent while some around the country had tuneups against FCS schools, Kelly went on the offensive.
Kelly is wise to start building his case for Notre Dame’s inclusion now. The Irish have just one more opportunity to impress the committee while most of the other contenders for the playoff spots will have next week plus the conference championship weekends.
Notre Dame’s playoff chances suddenly look a lot better than they were just a few weeks ago too. Thanks to Oregon’s blowout loss to Utah, the Irish appear poised to move up two spots to sixth in the next installment of the CFP rankings. Multiple teams ahead of Notre Dame still have to lose since they play other teams in the top five so if the Irish keep winning, there’s a good chance the Irish find themselves in the final four.
Aside from just moving up over the teams already ahead of them, the Irish will have to watch out for the Big 12 champion potentially jumping them if either Oklahoma or Oklahoma State emerge from the Big 12 Championship with just one loss. They’ll play each other twice most likely – next weekend at Bedlahm and then again in the title game. If either sweeps those games, they could vault over the Irish. Expect Brian Kelly to be making Notre Dame’s case for the next few weeks, however, as the Irish keep building their own resume.