Case Closed

If I didn’t work from home quite often these days, I’d probably have gone into the office to a ton of excuses from Michigan (sucks!) fans about why Notre Dame didn’t really slaughter Michigan (sucks!), and how Michigan (sucks!) instead slaughtered themselves.

Luckily, I didn’t have to go into the office today, so I didn’t face this army of Brian-Cook-wannabes. But maybe you weren’t so fortunate. For you, and for the fight against Communism, HLS Florida Bureau spy and international man of intrigue, BJGator, set his data-analysis lemmings to the task of digging through the numbers to create some real “information” about the game while he took out a terrorist cell in Tampa. He then deftly put together a summary of the information for world-wide distribution while making Florida coeds swoon.

Here’s his report:


What all Irish fans have had to endure is the assertion that Notre Dame was thoroughly outplayed by Michigan (sucks!) and that the Wolverines simply gave away the game. Arguments include that UM had more time of possession, offensive yards, first downs, and yards per play. Of course, the subtle nuances that affect those statistics are completely ignored.

Average Starting Field Position

ND – Own 39
UM – Own 25

Number of Drives

ND – 13
UM – 13

Net Yards Gained on Offense Through Penalties

ND – +35
UM – +9

Total Yards that Could Have been Gained by the Offense (with penalties factored in)

ND – 756
UM – 968

Actual Yards Gained

ND – 263
UM – 391

% of Possible Yards Actually Gained

ND – 34.8%
UM – 40.4%

Total Time of Possession

ND – 27:48
UM – 32:12

Second Half Time of Possession

ND – 17:45
UM – 12:15

Average Time of Possession per Drive**

ND – 2:31
UM – 2:26

Points off Turnovers

ND – 21
UM – 3

*The statistics I list here do not include drives that ended a half, since neither half-ending drive was an attempt to move the ball and score.
**Scoring drives that took less than a minute to complete were not included when calculating Average Time of Possesion per Drive, since it was not inept offense that caused such a short drive.

OK, that’s a ton of derived statistics. My brain is completely fried at this point, but I will still try to give some cogent analysis. Let’s start with Time of Possession. Sure, Michigan (sucks!) had the ball longer, but keep in mind that Notre Dame’s first 3 drives were scoring drives of less than one minute. We couldn’t keep the ball long because it took us so little time to score. You’ll notice that we dominated Time of Possession in the second half, when we weren’t ramming the ball down Michigan’s (sucks!) throats, but rather playing ball control offense. Yes, the Wolverines outgained the Irish, but they had a much longer field to work with. It is a hell of a lot easier to gain yards in your own half than in your opponents. The Irish played pretty good “bend, but don’t break” defense against UM (s!), allowing cheap yards, but stopping them when it really counted. This same logic can be used to explain the difference in yards per play. Additionally, the Irish were being very conservative as they tried to maintain the lead and didn’t attempt to make big plays in the second half. Meanwhile, the Skunkbears were frantically trying to gain yards throughout the game. I will not argue that Notre Dame thoroughly outclassed Michigan (sucks!). Many of the key turnovers were unforced. But if points off turnovers were completely eliminated, the score of this game would have been 14-14. Michigan (sucks) did not dominate this game. Notre Dame’s great field position and conservative style in the second half merely made the offensive statistics seem much less impressive. This was a very even game, save for 3 key turnovers by the Skunkbears, which turned an even matchup into a blowout.


Notre Dame fans, you have your talking points. Read them over, memorize them, and then don’t burn a Triscuit’s worth of calories while destroying mini-Cooks the way ND destroyed Michigan (sucks!) last weekend.

Good Work, BJGator. Take a vacation with multiple exotic, dangerous women on a fabulous, nameless island on us. Just go easy on the AMEX Black card this time.

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  • The Biscuit

    Another thing to keep in mind that goes along with your thought about offensive yards and Michigan (s!) doing everything/anything to get back in the game: A riskier, high-flying offense will often net more yards, but will also result in turnovers. (e.g. things are more likely to go wrong – hence, the defn of risk!). So ND hung out and played it cool in the 2nd half, holding onto the ball longer, but getting fewer yards during that time (but way fewer turnovers). Michigan, way behind, took the opposite approach – doing anything/everything to gain yards, including downfield passes. These resulted in turnovers on a couple occassions. So while a few of the totally unforced errors were early and didn’t have anything to do with this, it’s inherent to the type of play (conservative vs. winging-the-ball-everywhere) that the more aggressive type of play holds more risk of turnovers. And this held true Saturday. So suck it Michigan (sucks!).

  • brendan

    Last year we outgained Purdue, right? So basically that was a win, right? right?

    Also, 4 of the 6 turnovers were directly caused by ND’s defense. So if you negate the scores that came off those it’s not 14-14, it’s a ND win. While you might ask about dropped balls by Michigan, the forced fumbles are good defensive play and that is not “handing the game” to ND. That’s swarming the QB, stripping the ball and running it back 35 yards…like good defenses do.

  • OC Domer

    Don’t let the UM fans rattle you. As others have pointed out, the Wolverines have NEVER lost to a better team.

    Yes, the Irish got some lucky breaks. But they were lucky breaks caused by the Wolverines playing AWFUL football. A gust of wind that blows the ball “wide right” on a field goal attempt is bad luck. The turf giving way and causing a runner to fall down on an otherwise good field is bad luck. Dropping the ball when there isn’t a defender within five yards is POOR PLAY. If I hold onto the ball and you keep dropping the ball, I have outplayed you – not out-lucked you!

    But here’s the bottom line – it was 21-0 just moments into the first quarter. From that point on the entire dynamic of the game changed. From that point, Michigan was trying to close a 21-point gap and Notre Dame was trying run out the clock before UM could close a 21-point deficit. You can’t judge who “outplayed” the other in that scenario, as each team had completely different goals. We didn’t really care about scoring anymore. The only thing that mattered to us on offense was NOT turning the ball over deep in our own end of the field.

    The fact that Notre Dame scored 14 points after it basically stopped trying to score, while Michigan scored only 17 points while desperately trying to catch up tells me that we did dominate the Wolverines on Saturday.

  • scott

    Couldn’t have said it better myself. I’ll gladly let them cling to their moral victory based on a statistic taken out of context, provided I can continue watching the new Yakety-Sax video approximately ten times per day for the next year.

  • BJGator

    Domer, I greatly appreciate you publishing this analysis to the world. I am not a prolific statistician, but, when inspired (as I was by annoying Michigan fans), I have no problem wading through data to create stats that I use to support MY argument. Of course, I am so rarely so inspired that a blog of my own simply couldn’t keep pace with one so witty and active as yours. But I am more than happy to make my contribution.

    As an aside, I really like the persona that you’ve created for me.

  • The Biscuit

    BJ thanks for the analysis. Spot on.

  • The Biscuit

    I like how a fan on MGO debunked this analysis bc we say that Michigan (sucks!) sucks. Right – so all of Brian’s “analysis” (clearly use the term lightly here) doesn’t count bc he calls Charlie fat? Right.