In a landslide akin to Reagan-Mondale, University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish head coach Brian Kelly should easily win the Paul ‘Bear’ Bryant Award

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Brian Kelly is the man for South Bend.

The top-ranked University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish defeated the USC Trojans 22-13 to complete their first perfect regular season since 1988 and secure a spot in the January 7 BCS National Championship Game last night at the 89-year-old Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

The Irish (12-0), and their smothering defense for the ages, will face the victor of next Saturday’s SEC title game pitting No. 2 Alabama (11-1) against No. 3 Georgia (11-1) in Atlanta.

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly, who is 81-32 since debuting on the sideline with Central Michigan in 2004, lauded his team’s winning formula.

“If you followed us all year, that’s how we played,” said Kelly, 51, a three-time Big East Coach of the Year who mercifully replaced the hideously obese Charlie Weis as Notre Dame’s leader in December 2009. “The entire game was managed how we manage each game. We minimized the big plays and we ran the ball, and our quarterback was able to manage the run game for us. That’s how we played the game all year. That’s how we got to 12-0.”

Despite staring at a preseason schedule that seemed overwhelmingly difficult, one of the primary reasons the Irish flourished on the gridiron was due to the play of All-American linebacker Manti Te’o, standout nose guard Louis Nix, dominant defensive end Stephon Tuitt and the rest of one of the more formidable front sevens in recent memory.

However, as Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick aptly noted, the fiery Kelly deserves as much credit as anyone for halting the Irish’s descent into college football’s version of redheaded stepchildren.

“I always thought it [would be] next year,” Swarbrick said of his anticipated timetable for Kelly’s restoration. “So it’s cool to be ahead of schedule.”

Without a close peer, Kelly is the preeminent college football coach today.

Provided spineless weasels don’t mar the voting, Kelly should easily capture the Paul ‘Bear’ Bryant Award in a landslide reminiscent of Ronald Reagan’s thrashing of Walter F. Mondale in the 1984 United States presidential election.

“If you followed (Notre Dame) all year,” it’s evident that Brian Kelly is South Bend’s undisputed leader and a man who will always “be ahead of schedule” with the Irish.

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