Brian Kelly and his Notre Dame team knows what is at stake this weekend.
While the top-tanked Clemson Tigers might be coming to town, along with a possible spot in the ACC Championship Game on the line, Kelly is still taking a diplomatic approach to this game. At least publicly anyways.
“This game, it’s not the end-all for us,” Kelly said Monday. “We could win this game, but you could lose to Boston College next week, and this doesn’t mean anything. We’re still in pursuit of a conference championship.”
Notre Dame in pursuit of a conference championship. Talk about something that sounds a little odd. However, that is in fact the case as the Irish are a de facto member of the ACC for this most unusual season.
With that in mind, Kelly says he and his team are mindful of that fact and know they must take an even keeled approach, despite facing off with the nations number one team in South Bend.
“What I’m saying is that this is a long haul,” Kelly said. “This isn’t a destination point for us this weekend. We’ve got many more games. We’re playing for a conference championship, so it’s not like when we were an independent and you need to get these games to validate your place in the College Football Playoff. We’re looking at winning the conference championship, and we have five conference games [left], and they all count as one.”
Make no mistake though, Kelly and his Notre Dame team have been looking forward to this opportunity for awhile. Probably since the 2018 Cotton Bowl when Clemson smoked the Irish 30-3 in the semifinal round of the College Football Playoff.
He may not say that out loud, but just read between the lines.
“We can’t empty the tank and say, ‘Hey, we’ve beat Clemson, we’ve arrived.’ No, we haven’t,” Kelly said. “I know this is the No. 1 team in the country, our guys know it’s the No. 1 team in the country. They’re excited about that opportunity, but it counts as one.”