FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. – Both Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly and his counterpart, Alabama coach Nick Saban, have said all of the respectful things toward their opponent leading up to tonight's 2012 BCS National Championship Game in Miami (ESPN, 8:30 p.m.).
The No. 1-ranked Fighting Irish (12-0) will try to unseat the defending champion Crimson Tide (12-1) and Kelly has been blunt in achieving that will be difficult. However, he has also said that it can be done if certain plans are followed.
Here are coach Kelly's keys to the game:
“I think the tenets of winning championships, you have to be at least balanced in all those phases,” Kelly said. “I believe that the quarterbacks will be important in the game. There's no question that somebody has got to have to put some points on the board.”
Starts up front
“I really think it's about who controls the line of scrimmage again,” Kelly said. “People were talking about how do you bring down Lacy? How do you bring down those backs?
If there are big holes; I don't know about you guys; we ain't tackling them. We're not going to get them on the ground. So we've got to make sure that we don't have big creases so we can get them moving east and west and get them on the ground.
I still think this game is going to be decided by what happens up front.”
No “luck of the Irish”
“Honestly I don't,” Kelly said of believing in fate for his program. “I think you get what you deserve. We had some close games this year, but to win those close games versus losing those close games, you have to have more than just luck.
You have to have a will, a determination. You have to have a confidence. And I believe that all of those things have to be built. Every one of those words that I just used has to take place within the workings of your program.
So if it's destiny that would be fine with me. I have not built any programs based upon we're going to get good luck or we're a team of destiny.”
Follow the same – and game – plan
“I think the way you manage the game is something that goes into how the game is going to be played,” Kelly said. “For example, if we go in there saying, listen, we've got to outscore Alabama, the game will take that flavor. You're going to throw the ball around, there's going to be some turnovers, and maybe there's going to be some big plays. That's not how we've constructed this team and that's not how we've managed the game.
I think going into the game people can surmise the way this thing is going to play out. We want to make sure that we get this thing in the fourth quarter and find a way to win the game, and that's how the game will be managed, just like the other 12 games that we played.”
Borrowing from 'The Wizard'
“… the team that makes the most mistakes, and what I meant by that is that you have to be aggressive in this game,” Kelly said. “If you're going to sit back and hope that it's going to come your way, you're going to miss.
So my point was - and John Wooden has made this quote to be part of his philosophy, as well, and I stole it from him, and I've used it quite a few times with our football team. This is one of those games where you have to be aggressive, and you're going to make a mistake. I'm not talking about catastrophic mistakes, throwing picks for touchdowns, but you may make a mistake here. As long as you know that you're playing hard and aggressive, that's the kind of mentality and that's kind of the background to that quote that I used.”
Nervousness never hurts
“They'll be nervous coming out, they'll question the moment, the anticipation, just the buildup to playing in the game,” Kelly said of his team. “But once the game starts, they'll be fine. They enjoy the attention. That's why they go to Notre Dame. They know that they're going to get a chance to play on national television and in front of large crowds.
There will be a little bit of nervousness that will go along with the start of the game, but they've handled this whole process very well, and I expect that to continue.”