Are the Irish Really This Bad?

I have been hoping to avoid writing a column with this title. But with a 1-3 record, this question, in some form, is on the minds of most Notre Dame fans.

However, as it turns out, Notre Dame has played only teams that are good or better-than-good. It's a somewhat interesting exercise to match up the Irish against the other opponents that these teams have played.

For simplicity's sake, I'm using total game yardage here. As I've argued, total yardage can be misleading, especially for teams that have large positive turnover differentials. But since N.D. is slightly negative in the turnover department thus far, it makes for a decent measure.

So, let's compare N.D.'s performance against each of the first four opponents with those opponents' performances in their other games. So, the figures below match N.D. with that team's season performance in other games. Thus, for example, N.D. scored 29 points against W.S.U. and W.S.U. has given up 12.4 points per game in other contests. N.D. allowed 329 yards to W.S.U., but the Cougars have gained on average 451 in their other contests.

Washington State

N.D. points: 29

W.S.U. points allowed: 12.4

N.D. yards: 316

W.S.U. yards allowed: 383

N.D. points allowed: 26

W.S.U. points scored: 36.0

N.D. yards allowed: 329

W.S.U. yards gained: 451

Michigan

N.D. points: 0

U.M. points allowed: 17.6

N.D. yards: 140

U.M. yards allowed: 278

N.D. points allowed: 38

U.M. points scored: 36.0

N.D. yards allowed: 439

U.M. yards gained: 462

Michigan State

N.D. points scored: 16

M.S.U. points allowed: 16.4

N.D. yards gained: 302

M.S.U. yards allowed: 330

N.D. points allowed: 22

M.S.U. points scored: 28.4

N.D. yards allowed: 300

M.S.U. yards gained: 402

Purdue

N.D. points scored: 10

P.U. points allowed: 13.5

N.D. yards gained: 346

P.U. yards allowed: 254

N.D. points allowed: 23

P.U. points scored: 36.0

N.D. yards allowed: 223

P.U. yards gained: 451

On offense, N.D. isn't very good, but it's not quite as bad as it has appeared as N.D. is only 1.2 points under the average allowed by these teams. N.D. is also roughly 35 yards per game worse than the average, though note here some improvement on this front. The Purdue game represented the first time all year that N.D. actually gained more yardage than the opponent was giving up on average and the M.S.U. game represented a fairly small deficit in this column.

On defense, N.D. remains a good team. Again, improvement is obvious. Both the M.S.U. and Purdue games must be counted as excellent defensive performances. The only really miserable defensive performance was against Michigan, which represents the only time this year that N.D. has allowed a team over its season scoring average, though even in that game N.D. held the opposition slightly under its yardage average. For the year, N.D.'s defense has held teams 6.9 points under their scoring average (and this includes points that weren't given up by the defense, such as the turnover returns by W.S.U. and M.S.U.) The Irish have also held the opposition to an impressive 119 yards per game under this yardage average.

The Pittsburgh game may prove to be a very different affair from the contests to date. The Panthers are giving up 21.2 points and 385 yards per game, making them the weakest defense statistically that N.D. has faced thus far. On the other hand, Pittsburgh has an offense that looks statistically quite a bit like Michigan's at 38.2 points and 465.5 yards per game. If N.D. plays defense in attack mode as they did against Purdue and a young Irish offense starts to get some confidence, this could prove to be an interesting affair.


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