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CHRIS DUFRESNE / ON COLLEGE FOOTBALL

Notre Dame is No. 25 in top 25 countdown

Irish haven't shown much fight in two seasons under Brian Kelly, and expectations aren't especially high now.

August 04, 2012|Chris Dufresne
  • Coach Brian Kelly is 16-10 in two seasons at Notre Dame.
Coach Brian Kelly is 16-10 in two seasons at Notre Dame. (Joe Raymond / Associated…)

Top 25 countdown. Today: No. 25, Notre Dame

From yonder high it was written in December 2009 that Brian Kelly was "obviously the right choice" as Notre Dame football coach.

It was also proclaimed: "Notre Dame, the 'it' program for so many years, finally hired a coach with the 'it' factor."

The unfurled scroll read, as trumpets blared, "Get ready for something different, Notre Dame, something new and bold and exciting. Get ready to win again."

South Bend turned the corner when it hired/heisted/pried Kelly from the Cincinnati Bearcats. He was the "do-over" for losing Urban Meyer to Florida and bungling onGeorge O'Leary.

The visionary who wrote all this was … me.

What, 16-10 two years into the dynasty wasn't what you had in mind?

This isn't a total whiff yet. There is still time to turn it around.

"You can't climb Mt. Everest in one day," Kelly said Friday at Notre Dame's football media day. So far, though, the promise of Kelly appears to be one big too-ra-loo-ra-LIE.

The Irish haven't won a national title since 1988, which puts them, in mountaineering terms, somewhere between hiring a Sherpa and base camp.

Notre Dame enters this season ranked in the top 10 only by voting coaches in Dublin, Ireland, where the Irish play Navy on Sept. 1.

Kelly's first two years have been marred by emotional sideline outbursts, erratic play at quarterback and South Florida celebrating on the leprechaun's lawn.

Irish quarterbacks combined for 17 intercepted passes last season, and they all seemed like game-killers. "We have to have a quarterback that we can trust that's going to take great care of the football," Kelly said.

It got so unpleasant that psyche-crushed Dayne Crist left the program to rejoin former Irish coach Charlie Weis in Kansas.

Tommy Rees was the projected starter until he was arrested at an off-campus party that involved underage drinking. "Tommy Rees has errors he's got to improve," Kelly said.

Rees, along with linebacker Carlo Calabrese, won't be making the Dublin trip — it is way too close to the Guinness factory. That leaves Notre Dame's quarterback situation to a strange brew of Andrew Hendrix, Everett Golson or Gunner Kiel.

Kiel is the Indiana product who reneged on Louisiana State to stay closer to home, prompting Tigers Coach Les Miles' comment of Keil not having the "chest" to lead his program.

Kelly doesn't seem the same guy who led Cincinnati to an undefeated season, or maybe he is and just wasn't on television as much. Kelly's lip-reader sideline rants against his quarterbacks are, frankly, unbecoming of a school of such pedigree.

Because Notre Dame is at another tipping point, we purposely put the Irish on the top-25 fence. The program can teeter either way.

This year's schedule is brutal enough to get a coach fired but strong enough, if successfully navigated, to get Notre Dame back on top in heartbeat. After Navy and Purdue, Notre Dame plays Michigan State, Michigan, Miami, Stanford, Brigham Young and Oklahoma. Notre Dame closes at USC, at the Coliseum, the pit of vipers.

Cut out the silly mistakes, really, and the Irish aren't as far away from the top 10 as South Bend to Dublin. Notre Dame lost five games last year by 37 total points.

But if Kelly knows anything he knows one thing: Nobody at Notre Dame cares about nice tries.

"We'll be judged by wins and loses," Kelly said.

Wait a minute … you already have.

chris.dufresne@latimes.com

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