From a coaching perspective, Brian Kelly's task leading up to January's BCS National Championship Game is a lucid one: Develop a game plan that will dethrone the Alabama Crimson Tide as college football's reigning champion.
But unlike the grind of the regular season, Kelly has an entire month to formulate this game plan.
The common question being asked by fans, talking heads and anyone else with a vested interest is whether Kelly will overcook his game plan during the month-long preparation period.
The overwhelming, resounding answer to that question is absolutely not.
If you disagree with that answer, take a breath and consider what has made the Fighting Irish such a successful team this season. Consider the foundation upon which Kelly and his staff built their undefeated squad.
That foundation begins, undoubtedly, with defense.
In his third season on the job, defensive coordinator Bob Diaco has transformed his unit into a force to be reckoned with on the national stage. The Irish finished the regular season ranked sixth nationally in total defense, fourth in rushing defense and first in scoring defense.
Diaco's defense doesn't offer any gimmicks or cute plays. Rather, it plays sound assignment football and will always throw the first punch. The unit prides itself on its physical, take-no-prisoners style of play.
Regardless of the opponent, the coaching staff understands that priority No. 1 is to shut down the opposing running game and get the defense off the field quickly. The Irish did that consistently, as evidenced by the aforementioned fourth-ranked rushing defense, as well as their national ranking of 12th in time of possession.
What the Irish do offensively lacks the flash and glitz that can be found at places such as Baylor and Oregon, though, like the defense, they have gotten the job done this season. Kelly and offensive coordinator Chuck Martin, without fail, have established a powerful running game, with running backs Cierre Wood and Theo Riddick operating behind a mammoth offensive line.
Sprinkle in a few nifty play-action passes from redshirt freshman quarterback Everett Golson, and you have the gist of how the Irish prefer to attack opposing defenses.
No, the offense will not blow you away with out of this world statistics, but it does just enough to put points on the board. There is no "decided schematic advantage" with this coaching regime. Opponents understand that the Irish will pound the football on the ground, then attempt to spread you out and take advantage of favorable matchups in the passing game.
In other words, Kelly and Co. indirectly dare opponents to stop them, despite a very simple and straightforward game plan.
To complement Kelly and his team, it's a simple and incredibly effective approach. What the Irish will do on both sides of the ball is no secret, but they've remained a freight train on a roll to a national championship. That speaks to the consistency with which the Irish conduct their business on and off the field, all a part of "the process" that Kelly so often references.
The long layoff that the Irish must undertake prior to their date with the Crimson Tide is simply another part of that process, and Kelly wouldn't have it any other way. He won't deviate from the process.
No overcooked game plan here, folks.
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