During the preseason, I put two posts looking at top-10 teams from the 2005 to 2010 seasons and how they stacked up offensively and defensively. The goal was to highlight what type of production we would need from the Irish if we were to consider ourselves a BCS caliber team and hopefully make a BCS bowl game. While starting the year with 2 losses cut any margin of error we have regarding those hopes, there is still an chance that ND can get in to a game.
In the two losses, most Notre Dame fans would agree that turnovers were the biggest causes of the two losses rather than general performance by the offense or defense. In fact, Football Outsiders valued the 10 turnovers against USF & UM at 55.3 equivalent points. In other words, in the two games we lost by a combined 7 points, we gave away almost 8 touchdown’s worth of points by turning the ball over.
I’ll now pause while we all commence smashing our heads against the nearest hard surface.
Anyway, the charts are back!…with one addition. I added in the average for the teams ranked 6-10. This gives a more realistic bar for ND to strive to achieve.
NOTE: The 2011 stats only have 7 weeks worth of data and are being compared against years with full seasons of data. So there can still be wild variation between week to week. The stats will be more accurate and become more reliable as more games are played and more data about each team is available. But they are interesting enough to look out now.
As you can see, across the board, Notre Dame has been fairly exceptional on offense. The Irish have been better than not only the 6-10 mean but also the 1-10 average in ever category. Most impressive (or importantly) is the Rush O S&P+. The running game has performed about 23% better than average running game of a top 10 team. Think about the last time we could say that! Another stellar showing for the offense has been the performance on passing downs.
Passing Downs are defined as:
- second down with 8 or more yards to go
- third or fourth down with 5 or more yards to go
The Passing Down S&P+ of 177.4 is the 2nd highest of any top 10 team since 2005 and beaten only by the Cam Newton led Auburn team of last season. It’s a damn impressive stat and one of the biggest reasons ND has been successful on offense. Success on passing downs keeps drives alive which in turn keeps our defense off the field and rested.
Just sit back and look at that rush D. It’s damn impressive. That Rush D S&P+ of 189.9 means that so far, through 6 games, our rushing defense has been ~29% better than the best rushing D of top 10 teams since 2005. However, I was surprised to realize that ND is actually the 2nd ranked rush D so far during 2011 with Alabama at 241.1 (!) while LSU is 3rd at 174.4. Bob Diaco’s defense has kept up it’s strong play against the run that began in the Tulsa game last season.
On the other hand, as the S&P+ shows, the Pass D hasn’t been ideal. If I had to guess, I’d have to say that a majority of that is from our performance in Ann Arbor. Allowing 300+ yards passing to Denard Robinson given his standard performance in every other game this year severely impacted the numbers. ND’s pass D S&P+ dropped from 138.8 to 123.2 over the bye week as Denard stunk the up joint against Michigan State. Additionally and more worrisome going forward, the Passing D on Passing Downs has not been that good. Some of that could be from Diaco’s ‘Bend but don’t Break’ philosophy that allows works to prevent big plays. And the red zone defense has been extremely stout. Still, it’s an area that the Irish need to do better over the last 6 games. Improving on Passing Downs allows the D to force more 3 & outs and put our explosive offense back onto the field.
Statistically, Notre Dame has been one of the top 10-15 teams in the country on offense and defense. Against Purdue & Airforce, we’ve seen how good the Irish can look when cutting out the turnovers. So while this doesn’t give solace to any of us regarding the USF and Michigan losses, it should give some hope and provide some excitement about the team going forward the next 6 weeks. Then again, if we lay an egg on Saturday night (which isn’t going to happen), none of this matters and I’ll look like more of an idiot than I usually do. But hopes of a BCS game start Saturday night with our asswhooping of Southern Cal. Remember #BeatSC
All stats via of Football Outsiders. Explanations of the stats can be found there too. (Link)