In fact, Kelly would prefer holding off on a playoff discussion until December.
“I want to pay attention to the last (rankings),” Kelly said Tuesday, a few hours before the Irish landed at No. 4 in the initial rankings. “That’s the one that really matters. Does this matter, this one? Do they put you in the playoffs for this one? I don’t think so.
“We’ve been down this road before. We’ve been selected for (the first rankings), but it doesn’t get you anything.”
Indeed, this is the fourth time in the first five years of the CFP that Notre Dame has appeared in the initial top 10.
Wide receiver Miles Boykin has noticed a change in how the Irish are handling the playoff talk.
“We looked at the (big) picture when I was a freshman (in 2015) and we lost, and we looked at it last year and we lost,” Boykin said. “You can’t keep doing the same thing, so now we’re just focused on one game at a time. We obviously know what’s at stake, but we need to go 1-0 each week.”
Kelly believes the team has learned from those experiences.
“Just the knowledge of going through it, having it in front of us before, not finishing it the right way, has been a great impetus for all the guys,” Kelly said.
Here’s a look back at how the three previous opportunities came to an end.
Initial CFP ranking: 10
The Irish were 6-1 at the time of the Oct. 28 rankings, with the only loss coming at No. 2 Florida State. Notre Dame started November with a win against Navy. The rest of the month was a disaster, as the Irish closed the regular season with four losses.
The slide started by allowing a season-high 55 points in a loss at Arizona State. It also included a stunning overtime home loss to Northwestern. The Wildcats get another crack at the Irish on Saturday at Ryan Field.
Initial CFP ranking: 5
Notre Dame was 7-1, with the only blemish a 24-22 loss at top-ranked Clemson, for the Nov. 3 rankings. The Irish spent two weeks at No. 4 before dipping to No. 6 after a 16-13 win against Boston College on Nov. 21 at Fenway Park.
The Irish were a factor until the final week of the regular season, when they suffered another close road loss. Stanford’s Conrad Ukropina made a game-winning field goal in the Cardinal’s 38-36 victory.
Initial CFP ranking: 3
Top-ranked Georgia handed Notre Dame (7-1) its only loss at the time of the Oct. 31 rankings. No. 7 Miami crushed the Irish and their title hopes on Nov. 11 in a 41-8 blowout. The Irish finished the regular season with another loss at Stanford.
In each instance, Notre Dame got tripped up with November road losses.
The Irish will look to avoid similar pitfalls this season, with three of the final four games away from Notre Dame Stadium.
“They’ve got four weeks,” Kelly said, “so if we just stay committed to our process, if we stay humble, if we really work on our recovery (and) be prepared for the next guy to step in, then they’ll be fine.”