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Kelly: “Notre Dame will be taken serious when they beat an SEC team”

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Brian Kelly went 8-5 last season, but knows that isn't good enough at Notre Dame, not even for a rookie coach.

Notre Dame has come under fire in recent years for scheduling softer opponents and staying away from the big boys in college football. Kelly hasn't shied away from questions about scheduling and knows that the Irish have to play better opponents to earn the respect they once had.

"Notre Dame will be taken serious when they beat an SEC team," Kelly said while speaking to the Notre Dame Club of Northern Alabama in Huntsville, Ala., on Tuesday.

However, when asked specifically about scheduling an SEC opponent, Kelly did not give a definitive answer.

Notre Dame hasn't played an SEC team since facing LSU in the 2007 Sugar Bowl. The Irish lost that game 41-14. The last time the Irish beat an SEC team was 2005 when they toppled Tennessee 41-21.

Kelly knows all about football in the South. As a coach at Grand Valley State in Michigan, Kelly played in three consecutive Division II championship games in Florence, Ala. He won titles in 2002 and '03.

"Alabama has been good to me," said Kelly, who donated $5,000 for the state's tornado relief. "I know 'Sweet Home Alabama' by every word. I know about Muscle Shoals. And I know about Alabama and how passionate this state is about football."

The state of Alabama has won the last two national championships and the SEC has won the last five. It's a model Kelly said he'd like to emulate at Notre Dame and  he knows that the Irish faithful are getting impatient.

"I don't think I have much time," Kelly said. "I don't mind listening about the past. I think that's great and I don't mind being reminded about it. I don't like to mortgage my future. I like to live in the present. And in the present, we need to win at Notre Dame.

"We need to win right now."