SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- November is the make-or-break month for college football teams, when serious contenders are separated from those who see early-season success peter out by Thanksgiving.
If you're looking for a reason to believe Notre Dame won't fall apart in the season's final month, look no further than the weight room.
"Our strength and conditioning, our nutrition, the way we take care of ourselves, our schedule has really kind of taken shape and form over the last couple years (in) that our guys feel fresh. We're hitting peaks in the weight room right now," coach Brian Kelly explained Tuesday. "We're peaking out in November. So we're stronger as a football team right now."
Notre Dame began preseason preparations nearly three months ago and is eight games in to the regular season. By this point, it's natural for a team to be banged up -- not necessarily in the form of injuries, but the normal wear and tear that comes with so much physical contact.
But even with that strategy -- the Irish are only in the weight room for 45 minutes a day -- Notre Dame lost a pair of games to close out the 2011 season, a Nov. 26 loss at Stanford and a Dec. 29 Champs Sports Bowl defeat to Florida State. In 2010, though, the Irish went 3-0 in November and beat Miami in the Sun Bowl. Those two 2011 losses could be explained for factors behind physical strength, though -- Stanford was far more talented, and turnovers doomed the Irish against FSU.
"It's all based for us to peak in November," center Braxston Cave said. "I don't think he would tell anybody his secret, his formula, how he does it. But since I've been here, it's worked every year."