Notre Dame Coaches in Year 3: Could Brian Kelly Make History Repeat Itself?

Michael FelderNational CFB Lead WriterSeptember 20, 2012

SOUTH BEND, IN - SEPTEMBER 08:  Head coach Brian Kelly of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish watches warm-ups before his team takes on the Purdue Boilermakers at Notre Dame Stadium on September 8, 2012 in South Bend, Indiana. Notre Dame defeated Purdue 21-17.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

When it comes to Brian Kelly following in the footsteps of Frank Leahy, Ara Parseghian, Dan Devine and Lou Holtz; it is a bit early to say the current coach will be the next third-year Irish head man to bring a national title to South Bend.

For those not following along: Each of the aforementioned Fighting Irish head coaches was able to win a national title in their third season. Now Kelly's in year three, with a top-15 Notre Dame squad and a team in position to dream.

This Fighting Irish defense is damn good, but as a whole, there is much improvement to be made. They passed their three early tests. Navy was passed with flying colors on both sides of the ball. Purdue was no convincing win, but the team showed their mettle. Michigan State was the most impressive contest so far for this team. 

Now, Michigan stands in the way—a Michigan team that used a fourth quarter to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat against Notre Dame just a season ago. Accomplish that task, and the Irish will be perfect through one-third of the year.

That means they have two-thirds of the season left, including dates with Stanford, BYU, Oklahoma and USC. As it stands now, it is tough to imagine the Irish escaping unscathed.

For the Irish team and fans, thinking small is the key. If watching USC this year and Oklahoma State in 2011 taught us anything, it is that just one game can spoil the party for a team. In the case of USC, it was last week's Stanford game that—at least for the moment—has sunk their title hopes. As for Oklahoma State, the loss to Iowa State stopped them short of the title.

As Notre Dame fans know, injuries happen, and as we saw with Oklahoma and Ryan Broyles in 2011, the wrong player injured can sink a generally sound team's best efforts.

The third-year magic is tremendous in the lore of Irish football. If Brian Kelly can continue to put together wins and get the Irish into the Top 10, the chatter will grow louder with every W. Take it one game at a time, folks. If you look up come December at you're 12-0, then start talking about it. Until then, it's all about being 4-0. And that starts Saturday against Michigan.