SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly has heard the growing chatter about an expanded College Football Playoff and thinks his undefeated football team might be helping to speed up that conversation.
“We have a way of doing that to things when Notre Dame is involved,” Kelly said Saturday afternoon as his team prepared to face No. 2 Clemson in the school’s first appearance of the new playoff system’s five-year history.
Kelly is well aware of the common refrains that come when the Fighting Irish enter the postseason discussion.
“‘We shouldn’t be in it.’ ‘We’re independent.’ All that stuff,” Kelly said, referencing what others say about his team taking one of the four semifinal spots this year.
Kelly said he has no insider information about the future format of college football’s postseason, but he does think that the conference commissioners and decision-makers of the sport are now more willing to consider the idea of adding more teams to the mix.
He said part of that likely stems from the fact that after having five years to evaluate the four-team playoff, commissioners now have “an appetite to begin dialogue” on expansion. The past two years ending with at least two of the Power 5 conferences being boxed out of the playoff add to that new desire to discuss other options, Kelly added.
Notre Dame’s undefeated 2018 season landed the Fighting Irish as the No. 3 team in the playoff committee’s rankings, helping to push out a Georgia team that put up a good fight against No. 1 Alabama on conference championship weekend and league champions from the Big Ten (Ohio State) and Pac-12 (Washington).
Count Kelly among those in favor of moving to an eight-team format if expansion does occur. He said Saturday that having eight teams would leave a place for all of the Power 5 conference champions as well as ample at-large bids for independent schools such as Notre Dame.
“[That] opens up much more opportunities for at-large,” Kelly said. “We’re forcing out a conference champion. We’re forcing out champions in this CFP.”
Kelly and the Irish face No. 2 Clemson at the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic on Dec. 29.