Notre Dame has a lot of time to itself before the next game. Playing in a national championship is great, but the downside is that there is a month of free time for the players and coaches to pretty much do whatever.
Of course, you would like to spend this time preparing for the opponent in Alabama, but you aren't going to lock yourself in the film room for 30 straight days. You would like to use some time to relax and get away from the game of football, but you don't want to lose that competitive edge that brought you this far.
In other words, finding an equal balance is tough and can be a large task for head coach Brian Kelly.
What do you say to the team that hasn't already been said? How do you motivate a team that should already be pumped by playing in the national championship? How many times do you talk to your players for the next month before sounding like a nagging old lady that won't shut up?
Here are the key points that Coach Kelly should drill into his players before the big game takes place in January.
Stay Relaxed and Focused
Is this a big game that can really put the Notre Dame program back on top? Absolutely. A win over the Alabama Crimson Tide would force everybody to take a hard look at Coach Kelly as one of the top coaches in the country.
It would also prove that the Irish are a true threat that can consistently compete with the big boys in the SEC.
Having the trust of elite players that usually stay down south would then help recruiting in a whole other way. Teams such as LSU, Alabama and Florida would have to worry about Notre Dame a little more than they currently do.
But this isn't the only big game of these players’ lives. I'm sure each have had championship games in high school, playoff games and many of these guys will play big games in the NFL. A big game is just another stepping stone toward where you are trying to go.
In reality, although it may sound cliché, this is just another game on the schedule.
Just because more eyeballs will be on the television sets across the country doesn't make this game any different. A touchdown is still six points, it is still 100 yards to a touchdown and the game will still include 60 minutes. I promise that the game clock won’t include a second more.
Because this game may appear to be bigger, it's important to drive home that the rules remain the same and it is still the game of football most of these guys began playing in elementary school.
Also, while we are on the subject of big games, every game has been gigantic this season for the Irish. Remember the matchup against USC? If Notre Dame didn't win that game, there is no national championship. The same goes for the contests against Stanford, Michigan and any other game on the 2012 schedule.
The truth is that each and every game has been a playoff meeting for this team and this will be another one of those come January. Don't over-think things; it is all part of the process.
Also, when the team takes a trip down to sunny Miami, don't act like a fool. Some players think it is party time once they get off the plane and have that warm weather hit their face. Don't be that guy who gets caught up in all of the hoopla of the national championship and everything the sunshine state has to offer.
Take it from somebody who has lived in Miami for a few years now: There are many things to do and several things to get caught up in. Many of the activities could get a young college student in trouble if he isn't careful. Some of those things include nightclubs, South Beach, gorgeous women and alcohol.
It is important to control yourself and even set a curfew to make sure everybody is behaving and nobody is out late enough to get caught up in the city life. During the 2010 national championship, Oregon players had set their own curfew, making sure guys were in the hotel by 10 p.m. and in bed by midnight.
A similar approach would work and should keep players from ending up on the news for all of the wrong reasons.
Again, this is just your typical college football game and shouldn't be treated as anything else. Go through your same typical routine that you always go through for game week. And most importantly, don't let the wonderful city of Miami ruin this once-in-a-lifetime moment for you.
You Do Belong Here
Throughout the next month, players will likely hear that Alabama is this monster and there is absolutely no way Notre Dame can win.
Don't believe it!
Better yet, don't read the newspapers, don't watch television and don't peek at the sports pages online. You are here for a reason and that reason is because you ran the table. The Irish must understand that they have been an underdog throughout the entire season and it has played out well.
The critics can cry and moan about this and that, but find me another eligible team that went undefeated. It is because of this year’s accomplishments that the Irish are in the national championship and the players must understand that.
Do not let the storied history of Alabama, the success of the SEC or Nick Saban's track record intimidate you.
Sure, this is a team that was in this position just a season ago, but all of that will only play a small part in what happens on the football field. Alabama isn't going to be given extra points because it has won last year’s title. The game is the same no matter how much experience the opposing team may have.
At the end of the day, it is a football game and the players just have to go out there and play like they have all season long.
It doesn't matter that it is an SEC team and people question the difficulty of the schedule Notre Dame has played. The bottom line is that the Irish are undefeated and have certainly earned their spot on this stage.
Nobody should be able to tell these players that they don't belong.
And when January comes, they should be mentally prepared to go out and prove it.
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