UMass-Notre Dame Preview
''These are the games that concern me the most, where everyone else thinks they're going to be easy games,'' Kelly said. ''I know what we need to do. We've got to play well against them. So it's not a breather for me.''
It looks like it should be for the Fighting Irish, at least on paper.
Notre Dame (3-0) has college football's best winning percentage at .732 with 885 victories in 127 seasons and is the only team to open with three straight victories against Power Five conference opponents. The Minutemen (0-2) of the Mid-American Conference have yet to beat a Power Five team in 10 tries since moving up to the FBS level in 2012, and have a .132 winning percentage overall in those three seasons.
Kelly did his best Lou Holtz impression Tuesday in trying to build up the Minutemen.
''They had some games last year where in their last possession had a chance to win games. This year, you can already see, had a chance to beat Temple and we all know that Temple has got two very good wins already against Penn State and Cincinnati,'' he said.
While all that is true, the biggest challenge for the Irish this week is avoiding complacency after wins over Texas, Virginia and No. 20 Georgia Tech and a big game looming at No. 11 Clemson (3-0) next week.
''You rely on your leaders to make certain that they hold everybody accountable to the way they prepare and, ultimately, the way they play. So if we really have the kind of locker room and chemistry that I think we have, then we should play very well,'' Kelly said. ''If we play very well, we're capable of beating anybody in the country. If we don't, then we can lose to anybody.''
The Irish are 28-point favorites against the Minutemen, one of the largest point spreads during Kelly's six seasons as Irish coach. No. 11 Notre Dame was 28-point favorites against Purdue last season and won 30-12. The 14th-ranked Irish were 29.5-point favorites against Temple to open the 2013 season and won 28-6. No. 11 Notre Dame also was 24.5-point favorite favorites against Boston College in 2011 and won only 16-14.
There have been bigger upsets in Notre Dame history. The Irish were 35-point favorites when they were beaten 30-26 in 1972 by Missouri, which was beaten 62-0 by Nebraska a week earlier; the second-ranked Irish were defending national champions and 28-point favorites in the season-opener in 1974 when they were beaten 31-20 by Purdue; and the ninth-ranked Irish were 28-point favorites when they were defeated 17-15 by Northwestern to open the 1995 season.
That kind of history may be why Kelly said he doesn't go in to the UMass game thinking about trying different things or focusing on getting freshman quarterback Brandon Wimbush some snaps.
''It would be nice that all those things happen, but I don't go into the game thinking that way,'' he said.'' I go into the game that we have got to be prepared for everything.''
Kelly, though, is worried about the number of season-ending injuries hitting his team.
''Certainly we can't afford to lose any more players at key positions: Quarterback, running back, you start to get into true freshmen, and that will be obviously a significant change in what we look like,'' Kelly said Sunday.
Sophomore safety Drue Tranquill became the sixth player for the Fighting Irish to sustain a season-ending injury when he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee Saturday while celebrating a pass breakup in the end zone against Georgia Tech.
''Drue Tranquill was a very important player in our back end of the defense because of his versatility. So there is a break point,'' Kelly said. ''We're still at a point where we have guys that can come in and step in, but there's no question that we have to be able to stem the tide here with the injuries.''
Kelly has said he doesn't believe there's anything that can be done about the rash of injuries, pointing out that the injuries have occurred in a variety of ways on grass and artificial surfaces.
Defensive lineman Jarron Jones was the first to go down in mid-August with a torn medial collateral ligament in his right knee when at the end of a play Notre Dame tackle Mike McGlinchey pushed linebacker Joe Schmidt, who fell in to Jones. Freshman nickel back Shaun Crawford , who had been practicing with the starters, during a one-on-one drill when he was backpedaling, turned and planted and tore his ACL.
Running back Tarean Folston, who led the Irish in rushing last season, tore the ACL in his right knee on his third carry of the season against Texas. Quarterback Malik Zaire fractured his ankle when his leg got trapped under a Virginia player on a run. Tight end Durham Smythe tore the MCL in his right knee in the final minute when a teammate fell into his leg.