Kelly begins defending Notre Dame’s strength of schedule


As we enter the second week in the ridiculous, made-for-TV selection committee rankings for the College Football Playoff, a few things have been made clear.

First, any worry that the regular season would be diluted by the elimination of the BCS was utter nonsense (as we all pretty much already knew). Second, the committee’s ever-evolving logic is still very much a work-in-progress.

At this point, it’s fairly ridiculous to debate the merits of Notre Dame’s placement in the Top 10. But as the committee appears to place significant value on big-name victories over schedule strength or quality losses, Brian Kelly has slowly waded into the waters of defending his team’s schedule.

After being asked to evaluate the strength of his team’s schedule through eight games, Kelly very clearly laid out his case for Notre Dame’s slate.

“I think you’ve got to look at the fact that all power five except for Conference USA defending champs and Rice, who are playing pretty good football right now,” Kelly said. “I think you take that versus other teams that have really had glorified byes in their schedule.”

Those glorified byes have pretty much been ignored by the selection committee, perhaps something that’ll come into play later down the line, but a surprising omission nonetheless. That Michigan State can have victories over Jacksonville State, Eastern Michigan and Wyoming — and a 19-point loss to Oregon — and still be ranked in front of Notre Dame is difficult to understand.




But this isn’t just a shot at the Spartans. Mississippi State has fattened its 8-0 record with a win over South Alabama and a glorified bye this weekend against UT-Martin. Florida State beat Citadel. Auburn has a win over Louisiana Tech and a future victory against Samford the week before taking on Alabama. Oregon beat South Dakota and Wyoming. That’s just a look at the four playoff teams.

The cupcakes gets to the crux of Kelly’s argument. And one that should be a persuasive one. You can’t control the fate of your opponent. All you can do is try and play the toughest schedule possible.

“Look, in 2012 I think we started the season with the No. 1 schedule in the country. I think we started that way this year, too,” Kelly said. “That’s all we can go. We go into this putting together the toughest schedule in the country. Nobody else does it that way.

“They put on teams that are clearly glorified byes. We don’t operate that way. That to me is strength of schedule in terms of the way we put it together.”

Of course, the Irish get a huge opportunity to strengthen their resume this weekend, with No. 9 Arizona State leapfrogging the Irish thanks to an overtime victory over Utah. As November continues to shake out, Kelly knows it’s still much too early to worry about anything other than making sure his team handles its business.

But given a microphone and a very valid point of view, you can’t blame Notre Dame’s head coach for going to bat for his team.