Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly staying out of poll discussion

Bob Wieneke
South Bend Tribune

SOUTH BEND – On Tuesday, hours before the College Football Playoff selection committee released its first set of rankings, Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly insisted that he wouldn’t get caught up on where his team was ranked.

He echoed those thoughts Thursday, two days after Notre Dame sat at No. 10 in the initial rankings.

“This is a fluid situation. I think it’s great for college football,” Kelly, whose team is ranked sixth in this week’s Associated Press poll, said Thursday night. “But that’s all it is, it’s just talk right now.

“Our focus is just taking care of what we need to take care of, and that’s winning football games.”

The Irish (6-1) will try to do that Saturday night when they play Navy (4-4) at FedExField in Landover, Md. (8 p.m. Eastern, CBS). Notre Dame was idle last week after losing 31-27 the previous week at Florida State, which sits at No. 2 in the selection committee rankings.

With a week off between the bitter loss to FSU and the Navy game, Kelly has seen his players itching to get on the field.

“I think everybody’s anxious to go play again,” Kelly said. “No question.”

Collinsworth out

Fifth-year senior safety Austin Collinsworth, who returned to practice this week after suffering a shoulder injury in the Oct. 11 North Carolina game, will not play Saturday against Navy. Collinsworth’s initial prognosis called for a 4-6 week recovery period.

“He’s made good progress, he’s a tough kid,” said Kelly, who added that Collinsworth is not dealing with a torn labrum or ligament damage, rather trauma in the shoulder that must settle down. Kelly is hopeful that Collinsworth can take quality reps next week.

Kelly said that everyone else is good to go for Navy, and added that slot receiver Amir Carlisle, who suffered a knee injury in the Sept. 13 win over Purdue and was out until Oct. 4, practiced without a knee brace this week.

“He looks to be back to where he was at Michigan,” Kelly said. “He’s playing fast. I think he was a little bit hindered there with the knee brace. He looks to be back to where he was, so that’s a good sign.

Analyze this

Kelly said that athletic director Jack Swarbrick invested in an analytics program for the football team that has provided different matrixes and drive tools. Kelly offered that he could give details on things such as average field-position start and percentage chance of winning.

“Which are very, very good tools to have,” Kelly said, “but I think when you boil it all down for us, and I know you hear this all the time, it’s still turnover-takeaway.

“I know it sounds boring and the analytics are really good for us because it allows us to do some things and really look at, in some instances, targeting, for example, who’s getting the football in certain areas and where we need to do a better job. The big picture for us is taking care of the football.”

Navy, with its triple-option offense, has committed 13 turnovers (nine fumbles lost, four interceptions) this season. The Midshipmen rank 103rd nationally in turnover margin at -0.63. Notre Dame ranks 46th with +.29.

“We can’t just sit back and let it happen,” Kelly said. “There’ll be some times where we’re going to have to be in a position to force the action.”

Cutback on cuts

One of the unique things the Irish will face this week is Navy’s cut-blocking approach. Kelly said the Irish did not practice against cut-blocking this week.

“You don’t get the same look there but in terms of demonstrating it, our kids know what it looks like,” Kelly said. “Now you’ve got to get off blocks and you’ve got to be able to rally to the football and those are the things that are going to take a little bit of work as we get into the game.”

Business trip

Kelly said that the Irish will not take in any special activities during this weekend’s visit to the D.C. area. Notre Dame will hold a walk-through Friday in South Bend before boarding a flight.

“This will be a business trip,” Kelly said.

Bettis honored

Former Notre Dame star Jerome Bettis has been named as the recipient of the Walter Camp Foundation's 2014 Man of the Year Award.

Bettis is the fourth Man of the Year recipient from Notre Dame, joining Moose Krause (1976), Rocky Bleier (1985) and Nick Buoniconti (1990).

"Jerome Bettis' success on the football field pales in comparison to what he has done off the field to help children succeed. This devotion makes him a worthy recipient of the Man of the Year Award," Foundation president James Monico said.

Bettis in 2002 was named the recipient of the NFL's Walter Payton Man of the Year Award. Bettis, currently an NFL analyst for ESPN, founded the Jerome Bettis Bus Stops Here Foundation, which creates a variety of programs and provides resources to assist underprivileged youth in making healthy choices.

Bettis, who suffered from asthma as a child, also focuses his efforts to encourage and educate children how to better manage their asthma.

Bettis will be honored Jan. 17 at the Yale University Commons in New Haven, Conn.

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly during practice on Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014, inside Notre Dame Stadium at Notre Dame South Bend. SBT Photo/ROBERT FRANKLIN via FTP