SOUTH BEND, Ind. — The noise about a playoff bid and the Heisman Trophy is getting louder around No. 5 Notre Dame as it prepares for Saturday's visit from Wake Forest.
Coach Brian Kelly and his staff are trying to tone down the hoopla surrounding the Fighting Irish (7-1), who have six impressive victories since losing by a point to No. 2 Georgia. Junior running back Josh Adams, fifth in the nation in rushing with 1,169 yards, has emerged as a legitimate contender for the Heisman and other postseason awards.
"We've made them aware of the fact that there will be more noise as you continue to win," Kelly said after Adams rushed for 202 yards in a 35-14 win over North Carolina State. "Our process is to refocus on what's important now. What's important now is our preparation."
And then, on Tuesday night, Notre Dame was ranked third in the initial College Football Playoff rankings, behind Georgia and Alabama and ahead of Clemson.
"I'm honestly giving you the truth in this answer: We just want to dominate this weekend (against Wake Forest)," Kelly said shortly before the rankings were released. "If we do that, we'd like three more chances. And then at the end of the year, if they say that (Notre Dame's) one of the four best teams, that will be fine."
After the Demon Deacons, the Irish play at No. 9 Miami, host Navy and close the regular season at Stanford. Including Wake, Notre Dame's remaining opponents have a combined winning percentage of .767 (23-7). Kelly said he is confident his team knows exactly where it stands and how it needs to operate going forward. "We talk about awareness," Kelly said. "You can't enhance until you're aware. They're aware."
TENNESSEE: Tackle Brett Kendrick won't play Saturday against Southern Mississippi after leaving in the final minute of last week's loss at Kentucky. Coach Butch Jones didn't specify the nature of the injury but denied a report that the staff allowed Kendrick to continue playing while knowing he had a concussion. "We would never ever knowingly put a student-athlete in harm's way," Jones said.