When Brian Kelly was hired as the Notre Dame coach two years ago, many believed that he was the right guy to bring the program back to elite status.
After two seasons, he has racked up a 16-10 record and is 1-1 in the bowl games.
This season was very difficult for Kelly and the Irish because it was the way they lost games that had many questioning his job security. Notre Dame turned the ball over a total of 29 times, including a combined total of 10 times in the first two losses. That's sloppy football and excusable for a university such as Notre Dame.
While this will be a long offseason, Kelly will remain the head coach. But he will have some things he must achieve if he expects to last any longer.
Here are some of those.
This would be a great start to keeping the critics off of his back. Michigan is once again at the top as it reached a BCS bowl and has a stellar recruiting class coming in. A win at home against the Wolverines will prove that Kelly is capable of winning the big games. It would also get the bad taste out of their mouth from earlier this season and snap a three game losing streak to them.
It would also be a big win as the Irish head into their bye week. The schedule will only get harder as they play Miami, Stanford, BYU and Oklahoma after.
Limit the turnovers
I'll keep saying it until I'm blue in the face. It's not about Notre Dame losing football games, it's about how it's losing them. This team was extremely talented this year, but lost games because they turned the ball over 29 times. In the first two seasons, Notre Dame has turned the ball over a total of 53 combined times. No excuse whatsoever and at some point you have to put the blame on the head coach.
Turnovers result in lack of discipline and that's the coaches fault.
The Irish losing a couple of games is going to be expected, but he has to make them a lot easier to swallow by limiting the mistakes.
Lose three games or less
Last season was the year this team was supposed to make some big moves, but it didn't happen. So, with a ton of talent leaving this season, it's hard to expect a BCS bowl next season.
That doesn't mean that Kelly gets off easy and another five loss season will be acceptable. The Irish must lose three games or less to show that he is making progress with this program. With a young team and a schedule that they're facing, a nine or 10 win season would be great progress.
It may not get them into a BCS bowl, but it would show that Kelly can work with this team and show that they're not that far off.
Randy Chambers is a B/R Featured Columnist that covers College Football and the NFL. You can contact him @Randy_Chambers or Randy.Chambers7@yahoo.com