Notre Dame received one first-place vote in the coaches’ poll this week. It was Brian Kelly who cast that vote, and he had no qualms about doing so.
“I voted Notre Dame first,” said Kelly Sunday, a few hours before it was revealed that the Irish are No. 3 in this week’s BCS poll behind Kansas State and Oregon. “I had them second last week to Alabama. Of course Alabama lost, so typically I’ll move up the next slot.
“We’ve played a tough schedule. Wins on the road against Oklahoma and Michigan State. Certainly showing how to beat a top team in Stanford. Those wins are big wins for us.”
Kelly pins his pick on the fact that the Irish have built their program around a defense that has become one of the most dominant units in the land. By holding Boston College to six points Saturday night in Chestnut Hill, the Irish lowered their per-game yield to 11.1 points per game, which ties them for first nationally.
Notre Dame has held nine of its 10 opponents to 17 points or less. They also rank No. 6 in rush defense, No. 8 in total defense, and No. 10 in pass efficiency defense.
“You take a look at each team and each team has its own distinctions,” Kelly said. “The distinction of this football team is the No. 1 scoring defense in the country. It’s proven that against very good teams all year. We make it very difficult for you to run the football.
“If you want style points, look at our defense. Look at the schedule we’ve played -- 10 FBS teams. It’s pretty clear that this football team has been built around this defense and we’ve lived up to that each and every week.”
That is the extent to which Kelly will concern himself with rankings as the Irish begin preparations for their final home game against Wake Forest.
“If you look at national championship caliber football, you’ve got to look at the defense,” Kelly said. “That’s why I feel strongly that our football team has put itself in the discussion. We’re tested, and I like the way our quarterback is developing. He’s getting better and better each and every week. Those are all positive things.
“We’ll let others decide, but I think we’ve played our way into the discussion. We’ll just keep working on one at a time and let other people figure out where that puts us.”