Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly no longer has to worry about finishing the season with dominating victories or talking about why his team would deserve a shot to win the national title.
Thanks to the Irish improving to 11-0 for the first time since 1993 with a 38-0 win over Wake Forest and Kansas State and Oregon suffering their first loses of the year Saturday, Notre Dame's path to the title game is clear – the Irish need to defeat USC (7-4) on Saturday to advance to the Jan. 7 championship game in Miami.
With that taken care of, Kelly can turn his experience in politics to stump for another heavily debated and followed postseason event – the presentation of the Heisman Trophy.
And Kelly didn't waste any time or mix words when promoting linebacker Manti Te'o to become the first Heisman winner to be purely a defensive player.
"I think he should win the Heisman Trophy, provided we continue to win," Kelly said during his Sunday teleconference.
Te'o leads the Irish in tackles with 98, and he has 5½ tackles for loss, 1½ sacks, six interceptions, four pass breakups and two fumble recoveries.
The senior captain, who leads the nation's No. 1 scoring defense (10.1 points per game), has shrugged off any mention of the Heisman or individual awards and said his focus will remain on the team and the goal to go undefeated by beating USC on Saturday.
"He doesn't talk much about it," Kelly said. "He's not focused on those things, he's focused on the things that we all know that are important to him, and that is his team and how we play on Saturday. I'll push for him.
"I think he should win the Heisman. But he's not really focused on that."
Te'o, who has already fielded his share of questions about the Heisman, can expect that to increase as Notre Dame's athletic website now opens with a page dedicated to him and his accomplishments this year.
The site also promotes Te'o's candidacy for the Heisman, the Maxwell Award, the Bendarik Award, the Nagurski Trophy, the Lombardi Award, the Butkus Award, the Lott Trophy and the Senior CLASS Award.
"The only thing we talked about is that he's going to be with me after the USC game quite a bit because we've got a lot of banquets and awards shows to be at," Kelly said of his conversations with Te'o about the Heisman. "So the only thing that I've talked to him about is that we have a hope that we'll be in New York together in a couple of weeks."