Quick, name the best three-loss team in college football this past season.
Actually, don’t. We’ll just tell you. It was Notre Dame.
Indeed, the Irish’s three losses came to Clemson, Stanford and Ohio State – teams that finished second, third and fourth, respectively, in the final AP Poll. Two of those losses, by the way, were by two points.
Thus, it’s not hyperbole to say that Notre Dame could play with anyone in the country last year.
“In 2012, when we played in the national championship against Alabama, they were so much better of a football team from top to bottom,” Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “And then in three short years, we were able to really catch up and develop the depth within our team. I felt like we could compete with anybody. Unfortunately, injuries are part of the game and you’ve got to overcome them, and we missed out on two plays in the last seconds of both games – Clemson and Stanford – where we didn’t finish it. But our kids, we had enough depth that we could overcome injuries and still put ourselves in a position to win games. The bottom line is, we put our program back to the point where we can compete nationally with the very top teams. That was the charge when I got here is to get Notre Dame back. Now it’s to do it consistently.”
There were reports that Kelly might leave South Bend for the NFL after this season.
Kelly, who is 55-23 at Notre Dame, last week signed a six-year extension to stay with the Irish through the 2021 season.
“Having the ability to recruit, having the ability to control the roster, what my locker room looks like, (handing) out the scholarships – (having) it really head coach-central in (the) sense that I could really formulate what my team looks like – I’ve been doing it for 25 years, and it’s hard to give that up,” Kelly said. “You have to give that up to go to the NFL. I just didn’t want to do that. It was just too good of an opportunity for me to stay at Notre Dame, and I’m very fortunate that they were able to give me the kind of security that I now have at Notre Dame and continue to build this program.”
Kelly certainly did that Wednesday, signing another stellar recruiting class to Notre Dame. He expects several freshmen to see significant playing time next season, including outside linebacker Daelin Hayes, who is from Ann Arbor, and safety Devin Studstill, who is from Palm Beach, Fla.
Kelly, 54, said that social media has made recruiting more transparent in recent years.
“The transparency through social media and the ability to promote yourself (is different), and obviously from a recruiting standpoint, we can learn a lot more though about the student-athletes that we’re recruiting,” Kelly said. “Before, it was video tape and that was about it. Now you’ve got all forms of streaming video online that you can easily access. So it works both ways, but I would say the transparency of the process is where it’s changed the most.”
Recruiting is a little different at Notre Dame, which has some of the most rigorous academic standards in the country.
“I think at Notre Dame, (that) plays to probably 99 percent of the kids,” Kelly said. “You make a choice at Notre Dame because you know what you’re getting into. You know the rigors academically. You know the kind of environment that you’re getting into. That’s why we have very few guys flipping and de-committing and doing that stuff because they know what they’re getting into. They’re not committing to the personality of the coach. They’re committing because even if they didn’t play football, they want to go to Notre Dame. Now, having said that, it’s more of a selective process and we have to go all over the country to find those guys. But I’d much rather have it that way because you know on Signing Day, you’re going to have a lot less drama.”