Underdog Irish arrive in South Florida for BCS Championship

Underdog Irish arrive in South Florida for BCS Championship
January 2, 2013, 11:45 pm
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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Notre Dame touched down in South Florida Wednesday afternoon to a water cannon salute and plenty of fanfare. Following the team from South Bend to South Beach is an underdog status that has lingered for months, and won't go away unless the Irish find a way to beat Alabama on Monday at Sun Life Stadium.
"We've been underdogs before, and it didn't really change our preparation," coach Brian Kelly said. "And they haven't changed the way they've done their work."
That may be the case, but there's no question Notre Dame has drawn from an underdog mentality all season. After beating Oklahoma, a few players hinted there was a little added burn given so few expected them to win. And after clinching a berth in the BCS Championship with a win over USC, defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore was quick -- like, right when he got in the locker room -- to gloat at ESPN's Rick Reilly, who wrote plenty of scathing words regarding the Irish.
But for all those previous us-against-the-world games, that mentality only had a week to fester. It's been just over a month since the BCS Championship was set, and in that month most analysis has pointed to Alabama beating Notre Dame on Jan. 7.
"Certainly they've read all of the papers and all the pundits that have us as underdogs, they don't think much about that," Kelly said.
But there is at least some thought on the team, some motivation being drawn from Alabama's status as a heavy favorite. It'd be weird if there wasn't -- why not take a little extra swagger into Monday with an us-against-the-world mentality?
This is a Notre Dame team, though, that's good at being tactful with the media. There won't be any Jordan Lynch-esque bulletin board material coming from these guys in the next few days, something a loaded Alabama team could latch on to leading up to Monday.
"We've played a lot of games as underdogs this year, and a lot of people doubted us," wide receiver Robby Toma said. "Nothing's going to change. We're going to compete for four quarters, we're not going to guarantee a win but we're just going to go out there and play."
Temperature acclimation next up for Irish
While Notre Dame has practice indoors for most of its December workouts, adjusting to the humidity of South Florida is something the team will have to do in the next few days. Kelly said he wants his team to "feel the weather tomorrow" with a strenuous workout, and then adjust from there.
It's not that big of an issue, especially with plenty of time to prepare. But it's one that certainly merited a bit of consideration from Kelly and Notre Dame's coaching staff.
"Our guys are in great condition, great shape," Kelly said. "A couple of days outside, I think we'll be fine."
Kelly earns another award
Notre Dame picked up another individual honor Wednesday, with Brian Kelly receiving the Walter Camp National Coach of the Year Award -- his fourth major coaching honor stemming from the 2012 season. Kelly previously received the Home Depot Coach of the Year (ESPNABC), Eddie Robinson Award (FWAA) and AP Coach of the Year.
Kelly is the first Notre Dame coach to win the award, which dates back to 1967.
Notre Dame Bowl Preview Show tonight at 9 p.m.
A little tune-in plug: Comcast SportsNet will air a special 30-minute program looking back at Notre Dame's season and previewing the BCS Championship tonight at 9 p.m. It's hosted by Chuck Garfien and features Tony Rice, the last Notre Dame quarterback to win a National Championship.