Notre Dame Football: John McKay

Did you know? Notre Dame vs. Alabama

January, 4, 2013
1/04/13
10:00
AM ET
We started this off last week. Here are some more nuggets courtesy of our friends at ESPN Stats and Info.
  • Notre Dame and Alabama have the most poll national championships since the Associated Press began its weekly poll in 1936. ESPN has made a policy of recognizing only poll-era national championships (since 1936). Both programs claim other national titles in the pre-AP era, but those are more difficult to legitimize, since there were several groups naming national champions back then, and hardly anyone watched teams from other regions of the country. The two teams have also met in bowl games that had national championship implications. Notre Dame beat Alabama in the 1973 Sugar Bowl to win the AP National Title. However, Alabama still won the UPI National title since it crowned its champion before bowl games were played. The next season, Notre Dame beat Alabama in the Orange Bowl to prevent Alabama for winning another national title. In all, Notre Dame and Alabama have played six times with the Irish holding a 5-1 edge. The two teams haven’t met since 1987.
  • Having already won in 2009 and 2011, Alabama is trying to win its third national championship in four years, which has been accomplished only twice in the poll era. Nebraska did it under Tom Osborne in 1994, 1995 and 1997, but the last of those titles was only in the coaches’ poll. The lone team to win three AP national championships in a four-year span was Notre Dame under Frank Leahy in 1946, ’47 and ’49. In addition, AJ McCarron and the Crimson Tide are trying to become the first program to win back-to-back BCS championships. Three previous reigning champs have returned to the title game, but all three lost in their quest to repeat. McCarron will also try to become the first quarterback to win consecutive BCS national championships, something that Chris Weinke (Florida State), Ken Dorsey (Miami FL), and Matt Leinart (USC) failed to do.
  • Alabama is trying to win the SEC’s seventh consecutive national championship. Prior to this stretch, no conference had ever won more than three in a row. It would be the ninth BCS title won by the SEC. All the other conferences have six combined and no other conference has more than two.
  • Alabama’s Nick Saban is the only coach with more than two BCS titles and is one of just 10 coaches with three or more national championships in the poll era. A win on Jan. 7 will put him in some very elite company, as only three coaches have won at least four national titles. The names: Bear Bryant, Frank Leahy and John McKay. Because Nick Saban spent the 2005 and 2006 seasons with the Miami Dolphins, he is trying to win his fourth national title in his past eight seasons as a college head coach. Only Frank Leahy has managed to win four in even a 10-year span.
  • Four different coaches have been responsible for Notre Dame's eight national championships in the poll era (since 1936). All four of those coaches captured their first national title in their third season at Notre Dame. Brian Kelly is currently in his third season in South Bend.
  • Notre Dame is third all-time in wins with 865 while Alabama is seventh with 826. Both teams also rank in the top seven in win percentage. The two teams met head-to-head six times with Notre Dame winning five of them. However, they haven't met since 1987, a 37-6 Notre Dame win in South Bend.
  • The last time an SEC team lost a national championship game to a team from outside the conference was when Nebraska beat Florida in the Fiesta Bowl to end the 1995 season (’96 Fiesta Bowl). Since that time, the SEC has won eight straight bowl games against “outsiders” with a national championship on the line. (doesn’t count Alabama’s win over LSU last year)
  • This will be Saban’s ninth championship game as a head coach. He is 7-1 in the previous eight (3-0 in BCS title games, 4-1 in SEC title games). The only loss was to Florida in the 2008 SEC Championship.
  • Notre Dame is 6-0 in road/neutral games this season with the closest one being a nine-point win over USC. Even though the Irish were also 6-0 at home, five of those six games were decided by seven points or fewer. Alabama has only two losses over the last two years, and both were in Tuscaloosa. The Tide have won 13 consecutive games away from home, which is the longest such streak in the FBS.
  • The BCS championship games have been split seven apiece between the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the final standings, but No. 2 has won seven of the last 10.
  • These are the nation’s top two scoring defenses, with Notre Dame allowing 10.3 points per game, and Alabama allowing 10.7. Last year’s national championship game was also a matchup of the top two scoring defenses, as Bama beat LSU, 21-0. Prior to that, there hadn’t been such a meeting in the postseason since the 1994 season.
  • The Tide have scored 21 points or more in 44 of their last 45 games. That’s three more than any other team in the FBS over this span.
  • No sophomore or freshman starting QB had ever won the BCS National Championship until Alabama's McCarron did it last year as a sophomore. Now, Notre Dame redshirt freshman Everett Golson has his chance.
  • In 2007, Alabama went 7-6 in Saban’s first season, while Notre Dame sunk to a historic low, finishing 3-9. In 2008, Saban took the Tide to the SEC title game, while the Irish continued their mediocrity, going 7-6. Entering the 2012 season, these two teams couldn’t have been more opposite in terms of success over the previous four years.
  • This will be the first time since 2006 that Notre Dame finishes a season in the AP Top 25, so it’s not surprising that the Irish weren’t ranked in this year’s preseason AP poll. They are the first preseason unranked team to reach a BCS championship game, and they are the first preseason unranked team to finish the regular season as AP No. 1 since BYU in 1984.
  • The last preseason unranked team to win a national championship was Georgia Tech in the coaches’ poll in 1990. The last team to do it in the AP poll (as Notre Dame can only do this season) was BYU in 1984.

Brian Kelly radio show recap

September, 15, 2011
9/15/11
8:23
PM ET
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Notre Dame's winless record heading into Saturday's game with Michigan State didn't prevent the fans from coming out for Brian Kelly's weekly radio show Thursday night at Legends of Notre Dame.

Still, Kelly is hoping they will have something more to cheer about next week after the Fighting Irish go for win No. 1 against the Spartans.

"It takes you to that next level," Kelly said of a win. "It puts behind all of the disappointments, and I think it just gives you the energy that you need to continue in a long season. I think it's just our guys need a win, but not because they're lacking confidence."

Kelly said this week he pointed to Virginia Tech as a template for the Irish to bounce back from an 0-2 start. The Hokies lost their first two games last season before winning the ACC title and making a BCS game, the Orange Bowl.

To do that, of course, the Irish can't repeat their five-turnover performances from Weeks 1 and 2. Kelly stole a line from former USC and Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach John McKay in describing his displeasure with turnovers.

"If we don't execute very well, I'm all in favor of executing all of our players who turn the ball over," Kelly joked.

(McKay had once famously responded to a question about his team's execution by saying: "I'm in favor of it.")

Kelly also wouldn't rule out Notre Dame wearing green jerseys again at some point this season, though they would probably be different from the throwbacks sported at Michigan.

"We have some opportunities we can do that," Kelly said. "We haven't made a decision yet, but that's definitely a possibility that we can see the green again."

The guess here is the Irish's Oct. 22 game against USC -- their first home night game in 21 years -- would make the most sense.

On the subject of jerseys (that seems to be the dominant conversation in college football now, doesn't it?), Kelly said Michigan's small numbers on the front of their throwback jerseys Saturday did not affect Notre Dame's defense.

"At the end of the day there might have been a play here and there, but nothing that impacted the game," he said.

Some other notes from Kelly:
  • Kelly said he still hopes to get quarterbacks Everett Golson and Andrew Hendrix some playing time this season but hasn't had the opportunity through two close games.
  • Kelly had high words for boxer Mike Lee, the Notre Dame grad whose "Fight Like a Champion" charity card Friday will be the first on-campus pro boxing event in school history: "What's struck me about him is he's been at virtually all of the different fundraising efforts for different charities. ... It's more than just boxing with Mike Lee."
  • Earlier in his meeting with reporters Thursday, Kelly said linebacker Danny Spond (hamstring) needs another week to get ready for game action. Tight end Alex Welch (foot infection) will likely be used in an emergency situation only. Nose guard Sean Cwynar (broken hand) and tight end Jake Golic (broken hand) should be good to play.
  • Kelly also said cornerback Gary Gray knows he can't dwell on a rough Week 2 at Michigan, where the Wolverines threw the game-winning touchdown pass on him: "If he lets one game change the way he plays, then shame on him. That's what I told him: You don't have time to feel bad for yourself. You need to get back up and get going. Those are the things I'm trying to teach our guys every day, how to handle adversity."

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