SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Perhaps securing a postseason bid, which allowed some pressure between Brian Kelly's temples to escape, is why the Notre Dame football coach was so introspective heading into the regular-season finale at Southern California.
"Clearly 6-5 is not what I had in mind," he said at Tuesday's news conference. "So from a coach, I've got to do a lot of things better. I've got to continue to evaluate myself and decisions and game plans and things of that nature. But in 20 years I think what I've understood more than anything else is that you have to do that. You don't just arrive. Things change so much from year to year. I think that's the thing I look at most. Notre Dame is a high-profile job. With that comes a great deal of scrutiny. I think I was prepared for that. We got a lot of it this year."
There would have been more had the Fighting Irish not turned things around with a makeshift crew the past two weeks. Now Notre Dame has an opportunity to really turn heads Saturday in Los Angeles against its biggest rival.
The Trojans (7-4) have won the past eight years and the Irish don't need reminded of that fact. Just minutes after a lopsided victory over Army, Notre Dame players turned their attention toward the West Coast before they had removed their green jerseys.
"It was the first time this year in the locker room after a win, our guys were already talking about USC," Kelly said. "So there's clearly an energy and an excitement with our football players relative to this week."
Here are some more topics Kelly discussed Tuesday:
On bowl possibilities: "I have been included in that decision-making process. It's not mine. It's [athletic director] Jack Swarbrick's to make. There are some caveats. Obviously, it's got to fit with our exams -- that's very, very important in the overall perspective here relative to one bowl over the other. Then, as you know, the litany of tie-ins, who has got to do what. I'm usually brought into the loop on, 'Hey, coach, here are some things we're looking at. How does that fit in your recruiting schedule, exam schedule, things of that nature?' But the boardroom discussions are certainly on our athletic director."
On preparing for a bowl game: "I don't like to put our seniors through 15 more practices. They want to play in the bowl game. Generally, what I'll do is have the younger guys practice, say, for a week and really work on player development -- those young guys getting a chance to be the starters, if you will, on our offense and defense. And then we will integrate our seniors into our practice as we get into specific bowl preparation."
On receiver Theo Riddick's possible return: "He looked good in pregame against Army. I liked the way he looked. He moved well. At first glance you would say, 'Wow, he looks really ahead of where we thought he was.' Then he stiffened up a little bit as he stood on the sideline for the whole game. Our concern is how is he going to respond on a Tuesday backed up by a Wednesday. How does he really look on Wednesday? I think he's going to look pretty good today. How is he going to look on Wednesday? I think that's really the answer to the question specifically."