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El Paso Times, Ruben R Ramirez, Associated Press
Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly listens to a question during a news conference for the Sun Bowl, Thursday, Dec. 9, 2010, in El Paso, Texas. Norte Dame will play Miami during an NCAA college football game on Dec. 31.

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.