SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Brian Kelly quickly got his team's attention when he arrived on campus a year ago. And now one day after the anniversary of his hiring, he's tuning the Irish up for a Sun Bowl date with Miami on New Year's Eve.

Selling points for victory are easy for Kelly: 8-5 sounds a lot better than 7-5 and Notre Dame is playing the school that was its fiercest rival in the 1980s. A win will boost confidence heading into next season, send the seniors out on a winning note and help with recruiting.

The most difficult part is staying sharp during a long layoff between the regular-season finale and a bowl game that is still nearly three weeks off.