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October 5, 2013
ARLINGTON, Texas - It is a given that the most successful head college football coaches rack up most of their successes against lesser competition, and then determine greatness/moderate success by how they fair against the tougher opponents on the schedule.
Ara Parseghian is a legendary figure in Notre Dame football history, winning a phenomenal 83.6 percent of the 116 games he coached for the Irish. Notre Dame claimed two national titles under Parseghian - in 1966 and 1973 - and came close to two more in 1964 and 1970.
Back in the days of 10-game regular seasons, Parseghian never won less than seven games and finished with a sparkling 95-17-4 mark.
But the fact is the Irish played ranked teams relatively infrequently during Parseghian's 11-year reign. Of the 116 games coached by Parseghian at Notre Dame, only 26 - 22.4 percent - came against opponents ranked among the nation's top 20. (The top 25 didn't come into play until years later.) The Irish played no ranked teams in 1964, one each during the 1971 and 1972 regular seasons, and never more than three in a single regular season.
Parseghian's record against ranked opponents was 13-11-2 (.538), including a 3-6-2 mark against USC. Purdue - led by quarterback Mike Phipps - defeated the Irish three straight seasons (1967-69), and claimed victory four times in five years.
Against teams with at least eight victories, Kelly is 10-11. Against teams with seven or less victories in a season, Kelly's record is 22-2.
During Lou Holtz's incredible 11-year run with the Irish from 1986-96, the Irish played 55 of 132 games against ranked competition - an average of five per season and a remarkable 41.6 percent of his games. Against ranked foes, Holtz was 33-20-2 (.618 winning percentage). He was 34-25-2 against teams that finished with four or less losses.
Compare all of this to current Irish head coach Brian Kelly, who has had most of his success while at Notre Dame against teams slightly above, at, or below the .500 mark.
Kelly enters tonight's clash with Arizona State with a 31-13 mark. Against teams with at least eight victories -- assuming Michigan, Michigan State and Oklahoma finish will qualify in that category this season, against whom the Irish are 1-2 so far this year - Kelly is 10-11. Against teams with nine victories - again assuming that level of success for the above-mentioned three opponents - Kelly is 5-11.
Only 27.2 percent - 12 of 44 games - have been played against ranked opponents. No. 13 comes tonight when the Irish take on the No. 22 Sun Devils of Arizona State.
Against teams with seven or less victories in a season - assuming that Temple and Purdue will finish with less than that in 2013 - Kelly's record is 22-2. Kelly's only two losses to teams with seven wins or less have come against a 7-6 Michigan team in 2010 and a 5-7 South Florida team in 2011.?
Kelly's 32 victories have come against teams that have compiled a 195-176 record. His 13 losses have come against teams with a 116-34 record.
Kelly is 6-6 versus ranked opponents. The victories were over No. 15 Utah in 2010, No. 15 Michigan State in 2011, and No. 10 Michigan State, No. 18 Michigan, No. 17 Stanford and No. 8 Oklahoma in 2012.
The losses versus ranked opponents were to No. 16 Stanford in 2010, No. 4 Stanford and No. 25 Florida State in 2011, No. 2 Alabama in 2012, and No. 17 Michigan and No. 14 Oklahoma in 2013. (The rankings are based upon the Associated Press poll. Michigan State was No. 24 in the coach's poll this year when the Irish won, 17-13, but unranked in the AP.)
Saturday night in AT&T Stadium, unranked Notre Dame (3-2) takes on No. 22 Arizona State (3-1). Based upon previous results against ranked opponents under Kelly, the Irish have a 50-50 chance of claiming victory against the Sun Devils. That sounds about right.
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