In his first official press conference since the week off, Brian Kelly seemed to do as much as he could to turn Saturday night’s main event into just another Saturday for the Irish.
“The guys know USC-Notre Dame is not a game you need to hype with your players. They recognize that,” Kelly said. “So my feelings are that it’s a rivalry because of its tradition and its history. I don’t make too much of it. We don’t sit here and pontificate about the great games that have been played between USC and Notre Dame. They know those things. My job is to prepare our football team to play well on that one Saturday.”
After opening the season with two Saturdays filled with errors, Notre Dame is now on a four-game winning streak and the cusp of a top 25 ranking. But to get where they ultimately want to get, they’ll need to build a winning streak of their own against USC.
Here are the highlights of today’s press conference with Kelly. As usual, thoughts below the video:This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!
It appears the Irish will have all hands on deck this Saturday. Yet Kelly wasn’t quite sure what he’ll get out of Ethan Johnson, a veteran that’ll be important on a big stage like this.
“Ethan played a little bit in our 11 on 11 series yesterday, which is ones versus ones. He’s not at a point where he can play every snap yet, but he’s certainly going to be able to do something for us on Saturday,” Kelly said.
With a dropback quarterback like Matt Barkley, mixing in Aaron Lynch will be easier than it was against Air Force. That said, whoever is on the field will likely go head up with left tackle Matt Kalil, one of the best tackles in the country.
That said, if there’s good news on the injury front, it’s that Manti Te’o is healthy and almost back to 100 percent.
“Manti probably feels as good as he’s felt in a few weeks,” Kelly said. “The rest certainly helped him. Played very well against Air Force on an ankle that was less than a hundred percent. So the rest really helped him a lot.”
Injured wide receiver Daniel Smith was also cleared to practice. He simulated talented Trojans receiver Marqise Lee for the scout team.
This weekend will be the biggest Notre Dame recruiting weekend ever. I’ll go more in-depth later this week, but Kelly talked a little bit about how the weekend came about, and the perception that he and the staff are pushing all their proverbial chips into the middle of the table.
“Well, certainly if we could have spread it out over three or four games, we certainly would have done that,” Kelly said. “I don’t know that our recruits saw some of the other games as exciting as this opportunity. Obviously, if we had the total say on it, we may have spaced it out a little bit better. But it’s a great atmosphere. It’s USC. It’s on primetime television on NBC. So we’re going to do our best to accommodate a number of recruits that we have up here this weekend.”
With over 50 recruits on campus in either an official or unofficial capacity, the coaching staff will have plenty on their plate this weekend, and the university and Notre Dame Stadium will be on center stage Saturday night.
A few weeks after Brian Kelly called the game with Purdue the Boilermakers’ Super Bowl, reporters asked Kelly what he thought of Lane Kiffin calling Saturday night the Irish’s Super Bowl.
“We talked about that the other day. For us, we want to get into a BCS game. We know what we have to do, and that is we’ve got to win each and every game we play,” Kelly said. “So every game for us, since going 0-, 2 has been that way. It’s been the same focus for us.
“It’s a huge game for us against USC. There is no question about the tradition and the rivalry. But if we beat USC and don’t beat Navy, it doesn’t mean much. So that is the perspective we take.”
Novel approach. Beat USC and Navy. From there, a 6-2 Irish squad could make things really interesting.