Notre Dame Football: Placing Bets on Brian Kelly's Time Left with the Irish

Sean LansingContributor ISeptember 17, 2011

Mistakes have plagued the Irish, leading to an 0-2 start.
Mistakes have plagued the Irish, leading to an 0-2 start.Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Like Charlie Weiss, Ty Willingham and Bob Davie before him, Brian Kelly’s career with America’s most well-known independent team has already been a tumultuous one.

If the Irish fail to defeat the Michigan State Spartans in South Bend this afternoon, it will be Notre Dame’s first 0-3 start since 2007.

Considering the Spartan’s have won six of their last seven in front of the watchful eye of Touchdown Jesus, a victory Saturday for the embattled Notre Dame Head Coach is no sure thing.

When asked about the importance of this weekend’s matchup, Kelly played it cool for the media.

"I really don't put any more pressure on myself than I do for the opener, to the last game," Kelly said. "I treat them all the same."

Still, given the constant scrutiny and through-the-roof expectations that come with roaming the sidelines in South Bend, you have to wonder if Kelly’s words truly match his feelings.

Despite their winless season, Kelly’s squad is really just a few mistakes away from a 2-0 record and a spot in the top 15.

The Irish committed five turnovers in a three-point season opening loss to South Florida, and the sloppy play continued in week two when the Golden Domer’s again coughed the ball up five times en route to a heart-breaking four point loss to arch rival Michigan.

Ten turnovers in two games equals two close but ugly losses that should instead be check marks in the win column.

There is no such thing as a good or acceptable loss when you’re the Head Coach at Notre Dame, but the way in which the Irish are losing has no doubt added to the increased spotlight on Kelly.

Still, not all is lost in South Bend.

Following a tense off-season battle and a two-week back and forth with incumbent signal caller Dayne Crist to start the season, it appears as though sophomore quarterback Tommy Rees has solidified his grip on the starter's role in Kelly’s offense.

When the Irish aren’t throwing, junior running back Cierre Wood has been very good, averaging over five yards per-carry.

Can the talented Notre Dame backfield overcome their mistakes and the defense’s shortcomings to right the ship and keep Kelly at the helm?

Only time will tell.

Following this week’s matchup with Sparty, the Irish go on the road for two weeks to face Pittsburgh and Purdue before they return home for three straight games against Air Force, USC and Navy.

Even if Kelly and company lose today, winning four of their next five will likely quiet most critics for at least a few weeks.

Anything short of a four and four start, however, and Kelly could be on the fast track to the broadcast booth or another sideline, just like his immediate predecessors.