Undefeated season, playoff berth earn Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly Coach of the Year honors again

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 24: Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly celebrates the victory during a college football game between the Notre Dame Fighting Irish and the USC Trojans on November 24, 2018, at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles, CA. (Photo by Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

SOUTH BEND – Just two years ago, many wondered if his tenure with Fighting Irish might be coming to an end. Instead, it appears a new era is just beginning for Brian Kelly at Notre Dame.

After a ten-win season in 2017, the coach led the Irish to just their second undefeated regular season since 1988. In the process, the Irish qualified for their first-ever College Football Playoff.

Those accomplishments have allowed Kelly to win the Home Depot College Football Coach of the Year award for the 2018 season, continuing a dream season in South Bend that comes just two years removed from a 4-8 campaign.

It’s the third time he’s captured the award and his second time at Notre Dame. Kelly got the award in 2012 when he helped the Irish to a 12-0 record and a berth in the BCS National Championship Game. He also got the award in 2009 while coach at Cincinnati, when his Bearcats also went 12-0 and earned a spot in the Sugar Bowl.

Kelly completed easily his best season in South Bend as the Irish had success from start to finish in 2018. Starting with a win over Michigan, the Irish overcame two bumpy wins at home over Ball State and Vanderbilt to go to 3-0, before Kelly made his boldest move of the season.

He pulled starter Brandon Wimbush after the win over the Commodores and inserted Ian Book, and the Irish have been off and running since. In eight victories they defeated their opponents by ten-or-more points, including the three ranked teams they faced in that stretch.

The Irish defense has also been stout, allowing just 17.3 points per game (Tied-9th in FBS), which was the amount they gave up in a season-ending, playoff-clinching win over USC.

It also gave Kelly another career honor, cementing himself as one of the best coaches in the country. But if he wants to be a Notre Dame legend, he’s still got a pair of victories left to get in this successful season.