How high are the expectations for Notre Dame? Brian Kelly pumped up Northwestern by saying the Wildcats “just beat Duke.” Which is news to Pat Fitzgerald. Because Northwestern lost to Duke. More on that below. . .

 1, The Irish are squarely in the College Football Playoff hunt

It didn’t take long for Brian Kelly to start tamping down the College Football Playoff fire that’s starting to burn in Notre Dame’s world.

“Man, we’ve got a long way to go,’’ he said, ticking off the remaining challenges moments after Notre Dame had throttled Stanford 38-17, breaking a three-game losing streak against the Cardinal in no-doubt-about-it fashion. “We’re going to go to Blacksburg, Virginia, and play in a tough environment. And then we have to play Pittsburgh, who is tough to play. Oh, then we’ve got to play Navy, by the way. Northwestern, who just beat Duke. We’ve got a long season ahead of us. So if we’re going to walk out of here thinking that we just are the best team, we’re going to get beat and it’s going to diminish this victory. I told our team, `I’m proud of what you accomplished tonight, but if we don’t embrace how hard this is going to be, we’re climbing Mount Everest with this schedule. So take one step at a time and get ready for a tough opponent in Virginia Tech.’ ’’

Author’s note: I covered Duke’s 21-7 win at Northwestern in Week 2, so I don’t know which game Kelly is talking about. I hope the Notre Dame staff looks at the right game tape.

I guess his point is, running the table is no easy deal. I do not disagree.

And yet, the path to the playoffs is now there for Notre Dame. And for all the challenges, if you’re talking difficulty-of-schedule, ND’s situation stacks up very favorably with other playoff contenders.

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