Irish, Kelly look to weather Hurricane

SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- The Golden Hurricane will make a visit to the golden dome this weekend.

Tulsa is next up for Notre Dame (4-4) and coach Brian Kelly knows better than to blow off this particular storm warning, one that was considered much less of a threat just a couple months ago.

He's convinced that the number of obvious second-class citizens left in the FBS is dwindling.

"That line has dissolved, for me, over the past five years," Kelly said Tuesday of the difference in talent between BCS and non-BCS programs. "Just continue to look at Boise [State] and Utah and TCU. It's just a line that doesn't exist as people seem to think it does. They have got 85 scholarships. There's so many good football players out there. No, they are not 6-2 and 205 pounds like maybe some of the kids at Oklahoma, but boy, they are 5-9 and 5-10 and they can fly. And the coaches are smart enough to fit a system to the players they are getting, so that line for me doesn't exist anymore. You have good players at all programs."

Tulsa isn't Boise State or TCU. But Tulsa (4-3), led by coach Todd Graham, is tricky.

"Misdirection, zone offense -- so clearly the quarterback's part of that zone-read scheme," Kelly said. "But they do it with a number of different players that touch the ball, and they are all similar in type and size -- very fast, elusive kids that they are trying to get more touches for them within their spread offense. It's a bit of a unique offense, but I think when you break it down, it's really the spread [and] read option."

It's a disciplined unit as well. In total, Tulsa has only been flagged 30 times for 260 yards this season, which ranks eighth in the country. It is the only program on Notre Dame's schedule that has played cleaner than the Irish, which have committed 37 infractions for 355 yards (11th).

But it was sloppy defensive play last Saturday versus Navy that has irritated Irish fans.

"It's not like we were in the top 20 in defense last year," Kelly said. "So I think if we had a national caliber-defense last year, we probably would be a little bit concerned right now. I think we have made great strides defensively, even putting in a new scheme with the 3-4 defense. So I think it's perspective. My perspective is, and I see it every day, is that we have made very good progress defensively and I think we'll continue to make that as we go forward."