Friday we examined nine crucial statistical categories in which Notre Dame is expected to improve over its 2014 efforts. Below we’ve identified a handful likely to go the other direction.
Empty statistics such as passing yards (3,711 last season) were omitted from consideration – only those that best determine a team’s ultimate W-L ledger were scrutinized.
For a look at the nine categories in which the Irish are projected to improve, click here.
1.) Yards Per Play by ND’s Offense (6.1): Why fewer per play in ’15? Consider the defenses the Irish will face this fall compared to last season’s collection of relative sieves: On tap for 2015 are defenses that ranked #1, #3, #11, #24, #25, #28, #33, and #40 last season in yards against – and that doesn’t include USC.
Yes defenses turnover personnel in the college game, but the foundation for sound defense will remain present for most.
-- Kelly Era Best: Both 2013 and 2014 finished at 6.1 per pop with each season of the Kelly era producing a higher total than the previous (5.5 in 2010, 5.9 in 2011, 6.0 in 2012).
2.) Total Touchdowns Scored (55): The 2014 total ranks tied for sixth-best in program history (including bowl games) behind only the 1991, 1992, 2005, 1996, and 1988 Irish.
Fewer total touchdowns are likely against a 2015 slate that includes defenses ranked #2, #3, #4, #21, #31, and #32 last season in terms of points allowed. (And again, that does not include the expected-to-be-improved Trojans.)
This projection is less a reflection of Notre Dame’s offense as it is the likely tenor of the season, one in which nine teams – Texas, Virginia, Clemson, USC, Temple, Pittsburgh, Wake Forest, Boston College, and Stanford – can be projected as solid to outstanding defensively entering 2015.
-- Kelly Era Best: 2014, as predicted here last summer, it should be noted!
3.) Points Per Game (32.8): Predictions above call for fewer yards and fewer touchdowns, so that likely equals fewer points, right?
This might be cheating, but it’s still a relevant statistic. But as important, Notre Dame won’t be involved in as many Wild West shootouts as it was last season.
-- Kelly Era Best: Not only was the team’s 32.8 points per game average last season the best of the Kelly years, it was the second highest total of the post-Holtz era at the program.
4.) Total Drives to the Red Zone (62): That’s a lot of trips to the red zone, so I’ll play the law of averages and assume a handful fewer this fall.
For the sake of comparison, the “Power Conference” teams with more trips to the red zone than Notre Dame’s 62 in 2014, as listed from highest (80) to lowest (64) were Oregon, Ohio State, Baylor, Georgia Tech, Michigan State, Georgia, TCU, and Alabama.
Combined W-L record of those eight programs last fall – 94-15.
-- Kelly Era Best: The 2014 squad edged his 12-1 crew from 2012, 62-60. By comparison, the 2013 Irish visited the red zone just 45 times. It’s what Kelly’s offense does with its trips inside the opponents’ 20 that will determine the squad’s post-season travel plans.
To catch up on our summer predictions series, click the links below:Prediction #5 – Sophomore Sacker