When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
Radio: 1190 AM, 92.3 FM, 107.3 FM
FORT WAYNE —
Even though the No. 11 Irish (3-0) are off to their best start since beginning the 2002 season 8-0 and have their highest ranking since Kelly arrived two years ago, the coach is keeping his players grounded.
“We didn’t give out any rings yesterday to anybody, so we’ve got a long ways to go,” Kelly said during his Tuesday news conference.
Kelly called Saturday night’s 20-3 road victory over then-No. 10 Michigan State a signature win, but he also was quick to point out that the Irish face another challenging opponent this weekend.
Notre Dame plays host to No. 18 Michigan (2-1) at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
“It’s Notre Dame; it’s Michigan; it’s great college football,” Kelly said. “But for me, we have not beaten them (in three years). That’s what I remember about this series.”
The Irish were in a similar situation last year, when they were riding a winning streak and getting ready to play host to a rival in a home night game.
Notre Dame had rebounded from a 0-2 start to win four straight before playing host to USC on Oct. 22, 2011. The Trojans defeated the Irish 31-17, and Notre Dame’s dreams of reaching a BCS bowl game ended with the loss.
Kelly said everyone learned from that experience, and he has a sign that he put up last year to remind the Irish how to handle success.
The sign has four rules:
•Don’t believe or fuel the hype
•Avoid the noise
•Speak for yourself
“They know what that sign means,” Kelly said. “And they know if they want to continue to be successful, they need to continue to do the things they are doing.”
Kelly said the start of this year is similar to when he was at Cincinnati, which went undefeated in the regular season in his last season with the Bearcats.
“They are exactly similar in that neither one of these guys have been to those places before,” Kelly said. “Nobody in this room knows what it looks like. I’m handling it exactly the same way, and I don’t know of any other way to do it. And that is we are going to get better, and we’ll work on that this week.”
While Kelly wants his team to stay level headed, he also doesn’t want the players not to enjoy the success. But he also warned the Irish about how quickly the good feelings can go away.
“My first comments were, how did it feel getting patted on the back all day, wasn’t that a nice change to go to class and not hear how bad you are or what you should have done or what you didn’t do. They told you a lot of good things,” Kelly said. “Now, having said that, that’s a good place to be, but here is what you want to do if you want to be there next week.
“Because let me tell you what, if you don’t do that next week, you’ll be back where you were a few weeks ago.”