NORMAN, Okla. – In the wake of a euphoric Notre Dame locker room that left the under walls of Oklahoma's Memorial Stadium shaking as the Fighting Irish football players went through an assortment of orchestrated chants, their coach had some calm and rationale words of wisdom for his team, which had just shocked America by beating the eighth-ranked Sooners 30-13 on Saturday.
Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly advised his young men that they had better be prepared to lose – that is, if they don't take stay focused.
“We'll lose,” Kelly said. “If we start listening to national championship (talk), the BCS, we'll lose a football game.”
Perhaps his players can't listen to what Kelly refers to as “the noise,” but those that card-carrying members of Irish Nation can listen to the talk of a title, further the conversation, and absolutely revel in it as well.
“That's understandable,” Kelly said.
The latest Bowl Championship Series standings will be unveiled tonight and it is expected that fifth-ranked Notre Dame (8-0) will move up based on a couple of factors.
First of all, they went into a hostile environment (Oklahoma had lost just four home games in its past 83 games in Norman) and thoroughly dismantled one of the more prolific offenses (fifth) in the country.
Secondly, Florida (ranked second) got beat in their home state by 10th-ranked Georgia on Saturday. Throw in losses by Oregon State (seventh), USC (ninth), and Mississippi State (11th) and the road for the Irish to a BCS bowl game – if not the national championship game - is as smooth as George Clooney at a nightclub.
“They are a pretty smart group,” Kelly said of his team. “They know that if they stick with what we've done, and stick with the process of just preparing for Pittsburgh, they'll be fine.”
Kelly has his players speaking the company line of not just one game at a time, but one practice at a time. And though that would be nearly impossible for most of us to handle as our exploits are splashed across newspapers, television and message boards across the country, Notre Dame senior Zeke Motta doesn't feel that way.
“It's definitely exciting to be on this stage and compete the way that we did (against Oklahoma),” Motta said. “It kind of shows everybody that 'Hey, stop saying all of this stuff about us. We are capable.' (But) Focus day to day on the task at hand, no matter what the media says or anyone outside says.”
The Irish have home games remaining with Pittsburgh and Wake Forest, as well as a road game against Boston College, none of which pose a serious threat this season if Kelly's kids play close to their potential. A finale at USC will more than likely have a shot at the national championship game riding on it.
Don't talk to Kelly about any games a month or two from now, or any fantasy-like scenarios.
“If they start thinking about all of those other things and listening (to that title talk), we'll lose,” Kelly said. “I told them in the locker room 'Enjoy a great victory against Oklahoma, now let's find a way to beat Pittsburgh next week.'”