Stats and Stuff

*The loss on Saturday night to USC was Charlie Weis's fifth loss in his two-year stint versus 19 victories. Of the five opponents, four of them have been elite. The Michigan State defeat last season is the only bad loss. But of the five games, is there a common denominator? Is it as simple as blaming the pass defense or the talent level? Check out the numbers from the five losses.

-Michigan State: Offensive numbers: 594 total yards (107 rush, 487 pass), two turnovers, 6-for-18 on third down; Defensive numbers: 488 yards allowed (161 rush, 327 pass), three forced turnovers, 3-for-12 on third down.

-USC: Offensive numbers: 417 total yards (153 rush, 264 pass), two turnovers, 10-for-19 on third down; Defensive numbers: 476 yards allowed (175 rush, 301 pass), two forced turnovers, 5-for-13 on third down.

-Ohio State: Offensive numbers: 348 total yards (62 rush, 286 pass), zero turnovers, 9-for-17 on third down; Defensive numbers: 617 yards allowed (275 rush, 342 pass), two forced turnovers, 8-for-12 on third down.

-Michigan: Offensive numbers: 245 total yards (4 rush, 241 pass), five turnovers, 2-for-14 on third down; Defensive numbers: 340 yards allowed (220 pass, 120 rush), one forced turnover, 4-for-13 on third down.

-USC: Offensive numbers: 404 total yards (130 rush, 274 pass), one turnover, 7-for-18 on third down; Defensive numbers: 404 yards allowed (139 rush, 265 pass), two forced turnovers, 5-for-11 on third down.

What does all this say? First of all, a lot of it is on the defense. In the defeats, the Irish have allowed 44, 34, 34, 47 and 44 points. That's an average of 40 points per game in the five losses, an incredible hurdle for the offense to overcome. Secondly, everyone points to the pass defense and rightfully so. The deficiencies there have allowed these five teams to average 174 yards a contest running the ball. Another point: Notre Dame has a total of seven sacks in the five losses. A fierce pass rush has been missing in crunch time.

Also, in the last three losses, Ohio State, Michigan and USC have converted 17-of-36 on third down. That's good for a percentage of 47 percent, which is 13 points higher than the Notre Dame defense has currently in the category for the season. Turnovers are Weis's highest stat priority but the Irish actually have the margin advantage in three of the defeats.

On the offensive side of the ball, Notre Dame has scored 41, 31, 20, 21 and 24 points in the five losses for an average of 27 per contest. That's a difference of 13 points a loss. In the Michigan State contest, they started slow. Against USC in 2005, they executed the game plan perfectly. In the Fiesta Bowl, the offense had trouble doing anything against a speedy and tough Buckeye defense. This year, Michigan dominated the Irish up front and made Brady Quinn play possibly one of his worst games ever. On Saturday night, the Trojans' speed and overall talent level never allowed Notre Dame to find its rhythm.

What has also hurt this season is the ability to convert on third down. In the two defeats in 2006, the Irish are a combined 9-for-32 on the money down for a conversion rate of 28 percent. This is 10 percentage points below this year's mark of 38 percent and 21 points below the 48.9 rate in 2005. Top Stories