It's a popular theory among the fan base and media as well, but notable that the same thought process prevailed in the team's most recent string of defeats.
Why could it be different on Dec. 30? Perhaps because unlike most architects of mid-tier bowl programs at season's end, Kelly has a shiny new arrow in his quiver that could prove deadly.
Running back Greg Bryant.
“I think what (7 carries, 71 yards, and a TD at USC) does more than anything is give him more confidence knowing that I can be a really big contributor here,” said Kelly.
Bryant wasn't over the season's disappointing conclusion because of a high-ankle sprain suffered in the epic battle at Florida State. Bryant missed the Navy contest that followed and played sparingly from scrimmage thereafter against Arizona State, Northwestern, and Louisvlle, though he sparked a rally in the latter with a 61-yard punt return to the shadow of the Cardinals goal line.
“That was a big moment for me,” said Bryant of his catch, burst, and sideline sprint. "It was sort of 'All right, I ain’t trying to sit back no more, I’m trying to ball out. I ain’t trying to just be on the sideline. I’m trying to be a key player.'”
Bryant won't start over classmate Tarean Folston, but he could -- and likely should -- earn carries that often were offered most of the season to senior captain Cam McDaniel, a far better player in pass protection, a necessary trait for a Notre Dame runner in the shotgun spread attack.
“He's worked really hard. He’s gonna be a contributor. He’ll play against LSU and contribute,” said Kelly. “Tarean’s body of work has probably been more consistent. But I really love Greg. He’s just a (redshirt) freshman, it’s just his first year of competition. He’s got a bright future and a lot of football ahead of him.”
Folston was pulled early from the USC debacle early in the third quarter for an obvious failure to fully engage. But Folston starred in five of the team's preceding six contests, providing 715 combined rushing /receiving yards and five total touchdowns against North Carolina, Florida State, Navy, Northwestern, and Louisville.
(The Cardinals boast the nation's third-ranked rush defense against which Folston ripped off 134 yards and a score.)
He's earned the nod. Bryant has, at last, earned increased opportunity.
“I feel like I had an OK season. OK. Not spectacular, just OK," said Bryant. "My first year playing, redshirt-freshman year, it was an OK season. I can’t go nothing but up from here, that’s how I feel.”
“Coming into LSU, I’m just ready to take off.”