NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Call it Luck of the Irish, but Notre Dame is feeling right at home in preparations for the Music City Bowl.
One of the host sites that teams participating in the Music City Bowl practice at every year is Father Ryan High School, one of two Catholic schools in the middle Tennessee area. The school also uses the Irish nickname and has the famous “Play Like a Champion Today” sign in the locker room.
Guess who’s practicing there?
Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said he hoped the practice site was a good omen for the Irish as they prepare for LSU.
“We’ll take any of that. We’ll kiss the blarney stone. We’ll do any of those things if it helps,” he said. “I’m not much in terms of superstition or luck. It’s about preparation and how you play and all those things, but we’ll throw that. It’s always good.”
Former Notre Dame and current Detroit Lions standout Golden Tate played at Pope John Paul II, the other Catholic high school in the area.
Five for five
Kelly is the first coach in Notre Dame history to lead the Irish to bowl games during each of his first five seasons. He is the first coach to take Notre Dame to bowl games in five straight seasons in any stage of his career since Lou Holtz (1987-95). With a win Tuesday, Kelly would become the first Irish coach since Holtz to win eight games in each of his first five seasons.
Flip-flop on the line
Of the 65 coaches at contract bowl-eligible schools, Kelly’s career .552 winning percentage (16-13) ranks ninth among his peers. With a victory Tuesday, Kelly would leapfrog LSU coach Les Miles into eighth, Miles is currently 42-33 with a .560 percentage and would drop to .553 with a loss.
Looking for .500
This marks the eighth time Notre Dame has faced a Southeastern Conference opponent in a bowl game. The Irish are 3-4 in their previous matchups with current SEC teams, including 0-2 against LSU in 1997 and 2007. They have wins over top-ranked and unbeaten Alabama in 1973 and 1975 and against No. 3 Florida in 1992. Notre Dame has played Texas A&M three times in bowl games, going 2-1, but the Aggies were still members of the Southwestern Conference.
First time for everything
Tuesday’s game will mark the first time Notre Dame has played on Dec. 30. The Music City Bowl will close a gap between Dec. 27 and Jan. 3 where Dec. 30 is the only date the Irish have not played. This is the Irish’s 11th December bowl game; they are 6-4 in the previous 10.
Second time for everything
The Music City Bowl will be Notre Dame’s second appearance all-time in middle Tennessee and the city of Nashville. The No. 6 Irish opened their 1996 season, the last for Holtz, with a 14-7 victory at Vanderbilt Stadium against the Commodores.
As media waited to do Notre Dame player interviews late Saturday afternoon, Kelly and his staff headed into a next-door conference room. When asked if he had selected a starting quarterback between Everett Golson and Malik Zaire, Kelly indicated the upcoming meeting likely would impact that call, adding, “If it’s Everett, I’ll knock once on the wall, if it’s Malik I’ll knock twice.” ... Kelly said all of his players made it through exams and are eligible to compete in the bowl game.