Following a program-defining 30-13 win at then-No. 8 Oklahoma, the No. 3 Notre Dame Irish will now play with realistic national championship hopes in front of them when they take on Pittsburgh at home Saturday.
Notre Dame (8-0) is off to its best start since 2002, but a win would push it to 9-0 for the first time since 1993. In 2002, Notre Dame returned from a victory over Florida State to drop a game to Boston College. Irish coach Brian Kelly said the past will have no impact on the current team.
“I really focus strictly on the guys that are in the room and how we prepare them,” Kelly said. “I do not use history lessons as much as I want them to realize what it takes to win week in and week out.
“What will affect how this team plays is how they prepare during the week and that is what I can control and that’s what our players can control.”
Kelly said the hot start to the season can be attributed to the team’s preparation and focus.
“They have handled success early in the season, and they have shown that they understand that if they don’t prepare the right way, that they’ll lose. We’re not good enough to not prepare properly, and I think they know that,” Kelly said. “For us, more than anything else is that you can prepare well, but if you’re not going to play a tough brand of football mentally and physically, then you can lose every week that you play.”
Golson still improving
In the win over Oklahoma, sophomore quarterback Everett Golson completed 13 of 25 passes for 177 yards while also running the ball 11 times for 64 yards. Despite a solid, mistake-free performance from Golson, Kelly said some aspects of his game need improvement.
“The passing game still needs to improve,” Kelly said. “You know, we had where we consider four, maybe five opportunities that we left out there in terms of throwing the ball. So we want to see a higher passing efficiency in that respect.
“What we need now is to put together a string of games back to back.”
Kelly said the coaching staff will be asking more out of Golson following a good outing in a hostile environment against a top-10 opponent.
“Any time that you go on the road and you play with confidence and real good communication, you would hope that that — okay, we’re going to move to that next level,” Kelly said. “But we’ll see, you know, and what we’ll see is consistency of performance will be the next step for him … I think we demand more. Our expectations are high.”
No BCS politics
Notre Dame is just one spot in the rankings away from a potential date in the national championship game, but Kelly said he will steer clear of campaigning for Notre Dame.
“I’ve got great people that can fill me in on all those things, and that’s their job to feed you guys all that information as it relates to the politics,” Kelly said. “I got out of politics once. I’m not getting back in it.”
Notre Dame is one of four undefeated teams at the top of the BCS rankings. The Irish are behind No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Kansas State, and No. 4 Oregon trails the Irish by just .0011 points.