By DAVID VANTRESS
THE GOSHEN NEWS
SOUTH BEND — As the Christmas holiday approaches, the No. 1 Notre Dame football team begins preparing in earnest for the Jan. 7 BCS national championship game against Alabama.
Irish head coach Brian Kelly met with a large group of both area and national media on Monday as the team hosted a media day in advance of the much-anticipated national title game.
For the Irish, it’s been several weeks of practice, final exams, some community service projects, and preparing for the holiday season.
At the end of this week, the players will be released to go home for the Christmas holiday.
But next week, it’s back to work as the task of preparing for the chance to win a national title gets rolling full-speed.
“I assume that's what we want to talk about,” Kelly said. “I'll begin by saying that after our last game, the number one challenge that we had was to prepare our football team for this game. We didn't talk about the long layoff. We just talked about what we needed to do to win this football game and be the best football team on Jan. 7.”
The Irish, despite their undisputed No. 1 status, will enter the national championship game as a nearly 10-point underdog to Alabama.
Kelly said he has used that kind of thing as a motivating tool in his career, but isn’t sure it applies now.
“I don't know if that's as pertinent because it's a one game deal. It's all or nothing,” Kelly said. “Both teams have different dynamics to deal with a long layoff. Preparation is more important than any kind of fire and brimstone speech I can bring them. The preparation is really where this is going to be at, and getting your football to be at its peak on Jan. 7.”
IRISH ITEMS: Kelly also announced that several underclassmen will forego entering the NFL draft to return in 2013: offensive lineman Zack Martin and defensive lineman Louis Nix. Running back Cierre Wood will wait to receive an NFL draft evaluation before making his decision, Kelly added … Receiver DeVaris Daniels’ rehab from a recent injury is progressing nicely, Kelly said. “He was noncontract last week; he's be in a contact situation next week. So he looks really good. He's going to be able to be a key contributor for us.”