Brian Kelly on Departure Impacting ND's CFP Chances: 'Players Play the Game'

Mike Chiari@@mikechiariFeatured Columnist IVDecember 4, 2021

FILE - Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly looks on during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Navy in South Bend, Ind., Nov. 6, 2021. LSU is hiring away from Notre Dame, a stunning move of one of the most accomplished coaches in college football jumping from the sport's most storied program to a Southeastern Conference powerhouse. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File)
AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File

New LSU head football coach Brian Kelly doesn't believe his Notre Dame departure should impact the Fighting Irish's chances of making the College Football Playoff.

According to Brody Miller of The Athletic, Kelly was asked about that possibility on ESPN's College GameDay and replied: "I haven't seen coaches play the game before. Players play the game."

During a recent appearance on ESPN (h/t AL.com's Mike Rodak), CFP chair Gary Barta noted that a team missing a key player or coach is something the committee takes into account when determining the final CFP rankings.

Notre Dame entered play Saturday as the No. 6 team in the CFP rankings, but losses by two of Michigan, Alabama, Cincinnati and Oklahoma State in their conference title games could elevate the one-loss Irish into the top four.

With Kelly gone, Notre Dame named defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman its new head coach this week.

While Freeman has only been with Notre Dame for this season after spending the previous four years as the DC at Cincinnati, making him the new head coach means there will at least be some continuity for the remainder of the campaign.

Freeman will have some big shoes to fill in South Bend, however, as the Irish enjoyed one of the most successful runs in school history under Kelly.

In his 12 seasons at Notre Dame, Kelly went 113-40, making him the winningest coach in program history. The Irish also reached the BCS National Championship Game once and the College Football Playoff twice under Kelly.

SEC teams have largely dominated the CFP, and while Kelly was able to get Notre Dame into it on a couple of occasions, he may have a better chance of winning it all at LSU.

Still, the timing of his departure was somewhat surprising since the Irish still have a chance to compete for a national title this season.

Among the four teams that could potentially drop below Notre Dame by the time play is over on Saturday, Alabama is an underdog against Georgia in the SEC Championship Game.

If Alabama loses, the Irish would only need one upset to go in their favor in order to be a playoff team, which is something Kelly was likely aware of before he left.

The Irish are 11-1 this season with their only loss coming back in October to a current playoff team in Cincinnati.

Notre Dame hasn't played the most difficult schedule, but it did beat a Wisconsin team in September that was ranked 18th at the time, and it has been playing its best football over the past month, winning each of its past four games by at least 25 points.

Given Notre Dame's recent play, it will be difficult for the CFP committee to keep the Fighting Irish out if two teams ahead of them lose, even with Kelly now at LSU.