Monday Morning Briefing

Departing seniors Ethan Johnson, Trevor Robinson, Robert Blanton and the rest of their 2011 classmates could accomplish something only two previous Notre Dame classes can claim with a win in the Champs Sports Bowl.

For the rest of the weekend's thoughts, opinions, and observations, click the links below:

Click here for Part I
Click here for Part II

#11 – The 2008 Sheraton Hawaii Bowl Mattered

Notre Dame broke its embarrassing nine-game, 14-season bowl losing streak with a 49-21 beating of Hawaii in the 2008 Sheraton Hawaii Bowl. The win removed the media monkey from the program's back and left good vibes for the 2009 off-season. With the Brian Kelly-led (and Harrison Smith-fueled) 33-16 win over Miami in last year's Sun Bowl, Notre Dame could win its third consecutive bowl game with a Champs Sports Bowl defeat of Florida State.

No Irish team could claim such a streak since the 1993 unit (three straight and five out of six at the time). More important, because of that Hawaii Bowl win, no member of the current Irish team has lost a bowl game (either 2-0 or 1-0).

The class of 2011 would be the first to exit the school with three bowl wins since the 1993 crew and just the third in school history to finish 3-0 in bowl games (1993, 1978). Notre Dame began playing bowl games after the 1969 season.

#12 – Reeling Rees

Tommy Rees fired 27 touchdown passes and 13 interceptions in his first 10.5 games as Notre Dame's main quarterback. Since failing to throw a scoring pass vs. on October 22 (ending his 11-game streak with at least one scoring pass which tied him for third all-time in team history), Rees threw just five touchdown passes over the final five contests and none in his last two games. Including the USC game, the sophomore signal-caller has tossed just five touchdown passes vs. six interceptions in his last six outings.

Notre Dame quarterbacks – Dayne Crist and Andrew Hendrix included – had more multi-interception outings (four) than interception-free games (two).

#13 – I Sense a Pattern

Brian Kelly has lost nine games as Notre Dame's head coach. In those nine games, his offense attempted the following number of passes (chronologically): 44, 55, 45, 38, 56, 49, 39, 43, 47 – the highest total vs. Tulsa 2010; the lowest vs. Navy 2010.

He's conversely won 16 games for the Irish and in those victories, Kelly's offenses have produced the following number of rushing attempts: 36, 31, 31, 34, 29, 39, 32, 48, 32, 32, 40, 29, 35, 38, 46, 39 – the highest vs. Miami in the 2010 Sun Bowl.

In the wins listed above, the two lowest totals (29 rushes) were in victories over Utah (just 20 pass attempts and 13 completions) and Air Force (36 passes, 29 of which were completed).

More telling: just four times have the Kelly-led Irish won when employing five more passing plays than rushing attempts (BC 2010, Air Force 2011, and Pittsburgh 2010 and 2011).

The return and performance of Theo Riddick to the Irish backfield for the Champs Sports Bowl will prove crucial, as its suicidal to send Cierre Wood into the #2 ranked Florida State rush defense on more than 22-25 occasions. Histories (and logic) tell us the Irish will have trouble winning if they're forced to pass nearly 40 times.

#14 – Draw Your Own Conclusions

I have no idea what some of these mean. Others, well, I have a few theories...

  • Notre Dame is 7-0 when tight end Tyler Eifert scores a touchdown dating back to his insertion in the starting lineup in mid-October 2010…
  • Notre Dame's final yards-per-carry average of 5.0 is the highest at the school since 1996 (5.2)

  • The Irish are 0-6 when passing for 300 or more yards under the Kelly regime…
  • Notre Dame is 8-0 when rushing 34 or more times under Kelly (8-9 when they don't)…
  • The Irish are 9-1 when they win the turnover battle (conversely 7-8 when they don't, as none of the matchups in the Kelly era have produced an even number of turnovers). It's a bit disturbing that the ND has lost the turnover battle in 15 of 25 games…

  • Notre Dame kickers have connected on 48 of 57 field goal attempts over the last three seasons. The Irish have won just three of the seven contests in which their field goal kicker missed at least one field goal since the beginning of 2009…
  • The Irish have suffered from nine defensive or special teams touchdowns over the last three seasons while scoring just five in those same 37 games…

  • Notre Dame has allowed two or fewer offensive touchdowns in 12 of its last 17 games; in two of the five in which it allowed more than the pair, the Irish held a 30+ point lead at the time of the third score. Michigan (5), USC (3), and Stanford (4) are the exceptions…
  • The Irish are 15-0 when their opponent scores 21 points or fewer in the Kelly era. They're 1-9 (beating Air Force this season) when the opponent exceeds 21 points).

#15 – And the Money Shot…

Brian Kelly has not lost his last two games in any season during his 20-year coaching career (pending the Champs Sports Bowl).

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