SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Notre Dame observes a 24-hour rule after games, affording players a full day to celebrate a win or stew over a loss.
But when the College Football Playoff rankings were revealed Tuesday night — complete with the Irish ranked fifth — Notre Dame players celebrated, then quickly moved on. There was no 24-hour rule, let alone a 24-second rule.
“We hooted and hollered,” senior captain/defensive tackle Sheldon Day said. “(We) kind of got together and said, This doesn't mean anything, we have to win out and be in our best in November.”
But how long did it take to move on from the somewhat surprising ranking?
“I would say 13 seconds,” Day laughed.
Notre Dame players had similar mindsets Wednesday when asked about their No. 5 position. Quarterback DeShone Kizer pointed out how eventual champion Ohio State debuted last year at No. 16, while the mantra was that the only ranking that matters is the one released Dec. 6.
“I don't know, we could be ranked five or 55,” linebacker and captain Joe Schmidt said. “It doesn't really matter until the last week of the year. We have a game this week.
“It's like, cool, we're ranked where we are, but at the same time we have a lot of work to do.”
Notre Dame doesn’t need a group of 12 selection committee members to brand it as a good team. The players and coaches inside the Guglielmino Athletics Complex know what they are — a good team that needs to improve in certain areas, but also one that made across-the-board mistakes that kept it from beating No. 1 Clemson on the road Oct. 3.
“It doesn't necessarily bring us to any sort of confidence level,” Kizer said. “It makes us put in our mind that we're right there in the top. But we just understand there's only one we're going to end up accomplishing that goal, and that's to win out and take care of business on our end of the things. I think that's the mindset we've had all season, it's going to continue go forward. As long as we go 1-0 each week, we'll see where we end up at the end.”
If Notre Dame knocks off 6-2 Pittsburgh this weekend at Heinz Field, it’ll tee up games against sub-.500 ACC sides in Wake Forest and Boston College that look assuredly winnable (even though Boston College has a staunch defense, its offense hasn’t done anything this year). That season-ending trip to Palo Alto face No. 11 Stanford could be exactly what Notre Dame needs to cement its playoff resume — or knock the Irish out of the race for the four-team bracket.
Those remaining four games are the only thing in Notre Dame’s control. What’s not: How the selection committee views a resume that’ll include a two-point loss against the nation’s (current) top team, and lacks a conference championship game. Day was a freshman during Notre Dame’s 2012 run to the BCS Championship, which saw massive losses by Alabama, Oregon and Kansas State pave the way for the Irish to head to Sun Life Stadium as the nation’s No. 1 team.
Notre Dame handled its business well in 2012 — at least after nearly losing to Pitt in the first week of November — not letting the BCS rankings or outside buzz seep into the foundation of that team. The message is the same this year as the Irish embark on a season-defining four-game stretch as the nation’s No. 5 team.
“Coach (Brian) Kelly talks about don't listen to the outside noise,” Day said. “We can only control what happens in this building. The rankings can do whatever they want, it's all about what happens in this building. We have to focus on each and every day here.”