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For Notre Dame football coach Brian Kelly, third season the charm

In his third seasSouth Bend coach Brian Kelly has Notre Dame conversatifor national title. | Getty Images

In his third season in South Bend, coach Brian Kelly has Notre Dame in the conversation for the national title. | Getty Images

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Updated: November 23, 2012 6:20AM

Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly has a history. And it’s a good one as far as the third year of his tenure is concerned.

After going 4-7 and 6-5 in his first two seasons at Central Michigan, Kelly coached the Chippewas to a 9-4 record, including a 7-1 mark in the Mid-American Conference, in his third season.

He then moved to Cincinnati, where he went 10-3 overall but only 4-3 in Big East play in his first season in 2007. By his third season with the Bearcats, Kelly went 12-0 and won the Big East easily.

Now at Notre Dame, he finished his first two seasons 8-5. But the Irish are off to a 7-0 start in his third season and are in the discussion when talk about the BCS Championship Game arises.

So why is the third season such a good barometer of a college coach? Because the coach has at least two recruiting classes under his belt, and his system has been imprinted on the program.

◆ Dear Mr. Geno Smith, please mail the Heisman Trophy that prematurely had been handed to you to Manhattan, Kan. Thank you.

◆ Dear Illinois, please get in the long line with the others who are courting Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart to be their next head coach. And bring the checkbook.

◆ The first player to intercept a pass by eventual Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III last season was Kansas State’s Arthur Brown. Coincidentally, he was the first to nab one by West Virginia’s Geno Smith this season.

◆ Congratulations to Ohio State on being the worst 8-0 team in recent college football history.

◆ Sssshhhhhh. With a little help, one-loss LSU is still in position to play in the BCS Championship Game.

◆ Of the top five NFL prospects for the 2013 draft, three of them are from the Southeastern Conference (Jarvis Jones, Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery). Among the top 20, 11 are from the SEC and two from the Big Ten. Yes, two.

Players of the week

QB Collin Klein, Kansas State: Not only did he keep the Wildcats’ hopes for a national title alive, but he took control of the Heisman race with seven total touchdowns against West Virginia.

S Jonathan Meeks, Clemson: Yes, Virginia Tech is down this season. But Meeks helped keep the Hokies down by picking off two passes, including one he returned for a 74-yard touchdown, in the Tigers’ 38-17 victory.

Big number

539Number of yards for Alabama in its victory against Tennessee. It was the third time in the last four weeks the Tide had more than 500 yards of offense.

Key games Saturday

Notre Dame at Oklahoma, 7 p.m., Ch. 7: The days of beating up on the Big Ten and the Coast Guard Academy are over for the Fighting Irish. It’s big-boy time.

Mississippi State at Alabama, 7:30 p.m., ESPN: Two unbeaten teams with national-championship hopes on the line? Just another week in the SEC.

Florida vs. Georgia, 2:30 p.m., Ch. 2: There is very little left standing in the way of the Gators winning the SEC East. Georgia is that last team standing.

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