Tough early-season scheduling can give a team a big boost heading into conference play when the games get more meaningful.
It also affords a bit of leeway, as a top team can easily lose once early on and still contend for a College Football Playoff berth.
But what about when you’re not in a conference? And you have two losses through three games?
On top of that, your biggest rival also has lost twice, meaning a win at USC on Nov. 26 doesn’t exactly hold the same weight as usual for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
The rest of the schedule only has two ranked opponents, a pair of consecutive late October home games against No. 7 Stanford and No. 15 Miami.
For the Irish to have any chance in those games, they’re going to have to clean up a lot of things on defense.
Michigan State averaged 6.4 yards per play against Notre Dame on Saturday. ND’s defensive lapses came in key spots, as senior cornerback Cole Luke in particular had a rough go of it.
Luke had a chance to grab an interception early but true freshman wide receiver Donnie Corley Jr. instead took it away from him for an 8-7 Michigan State lead.
— NBCSN (@NBCSN) September 18, 2016
Later on, after Kelly inexplicably punted the ball away to Michigan State with 3:30 to play (after inexplicably calling a timeout), Luke lost sight of Corley on a crucial third-down reception to seal the win.
Defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder is drawing a lot of the ire of fans, but Kelly seemed to stand by his assistant on Sunday.
But like many failed relationships, there was a social media mishap.
Kelly said it was simply someone on his staff with access to his Twitter account that inadvertently liked a tweet that said it was time for him to shake up his staff because “Clearly it’s not working #FireVangorder.”
Kelly also became irritated when asked if quarterback DeShone Kizer and the offense will have to make up for a deficient defense this season.
“The entire football team, and my coaching staff in particular, is in a position where they have to coach better. I’ve got to coach better.”
Sure, Kelly and company can still get a couple nice wins, and you can be sure the team will return to a bowl game.
But will anybody be watching?