Notre Dame's Kelly says title-game-or-bust bar is set

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Notre Dame and Brian Kelly still have a championship to win tonight. The quarter-century title drought lives on unless the Irish best Alabama at Sun Life Stadium, but the fact that the program has that chance has changed it inextricably.

To Kelly, It's a title-game-or-bust perspective from here out.

"Playing in this game is an incredible springboard into the next season, because you set a goal, you set a bar," the Irish coach said at a news conference Sunday, his last comments before the championship tilt.

"They've already been here. You come back the next year, it's unacceptable for a standard to be any less than being back here again. So it's an incredible springboard."

The championship aspirations, Kelly reiterated Sunday, were always a part of the foundation he laid upon his arrival at Notre Dame.

But there is pursuing a title and there is getting to the point of playing for one, an altered dynamic that Kelly experienced at Grand Valley State, which went from never winning a playoff game early in his tenure to winning championships by the end of it.

"When I was playing for championships at the Division II level, it just changes everything when you walk into that building on a day¿to¿day basis," Kelly said. "Everybody is playing for championships. So this will be a great springboard in making sure that we get back to this game."

The next step, of course, is battling through the anxiety to win it.

"They'll be nervous coming out," Kelly said of his players. "But once the game starts, they'll be fine. They enjoy the attention. That's why they go to Notre Dame. They know that they're going to get a chance to play on national television and in front of large crowds.

"There will be a little bit of nervousness that will go along with the start of the game, but they've handled this whole process very well, and I expect that to continue tomorrow. "

Twitter @ChiTribHamilton

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