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Sign-stealing a factor in Clemson-ND? Kelly: We're prepared for it

It's the Game of the Year Part II tonight in college football.

Top-ranked Clemson at fourth-ranked Notre Dame – the first-ever ACC matchup featuring first- and fourth-ranked teams as league members, with the Irish a provisional resident of the league this year due to COVID-19.

On Thursday, the game took on an added element of intrigue when during his final press conference of the week, Irish coach Brian Kelly was asked about allegations that Clemson has been known to proficiently steal the signs of its opponents.

Kelly certainly did not swat down the query.

“I think you have to be cognizant of it,” Kelly told reporters on Zoom, “and be aware of it. There's no question it's something we are dealing with and I think we've lived it. We're prepared for it.”

Sign-stealing has been a largely unspoken element of the game for years, but it's gotten a bit more attention this year – especially after earlier this season Alabama coach Nick Saban brought up the possibility that Lane Kiffin's Ole Miss team had the Tide's signals as Ole Miss nearly engineered monumental upset of the No. 2 Tide.

Kelly said the Irish are mindful of not betraying their play-calls tonight with any tells; Notre Dame's offense is guided by veteran quarterback Ian Book and first-year offensive coordinator Tommy Rees, a former Irish quarterback.

"When you come down to the execution part of it, you just want to give your kids the opportunity to execute in a manner where nothing gets tipped off,” Kelly said. “We've got to do a great job that we don't tip anything off and if that's wrist-banding (with more play-calls off Book's wristband) more or doing other things, we're looking at all those alternatives."

On ESPN GameDay Saturday morning, Kelly said his team simply must follow simple formula to have a chance for the Irish to beat a No. 1 team at home for the first time in nearly three decades.

“They have nothing to worry about it,” Kelly said. “There are bigger things out there than playing college football.

“Play fearless. Play with some energy. Play with some juice. Do those three things, I think that's our identity.”