How Far Away From the Top?

Despite Saturday's meltdown, the 2006 season has been a good season for Irish fans. But like all impatient Americans, many Irish fans aren't looking for good anymore….they want great. How far are the Irish from great?

Irish head coach Charlie Weis has made no bones about his willingness to steal. From his very first press conference when introduced as Notre Dame's next head coach, Weis proudly expounded on how he planned to emulate successful people and take a little bit from all of his mentors.

While all of his mentors have been highly successful, they've done it in the professional ranks and not in college. They're certainly a great source for Weis, but if Weis wants to get to the top of college football, he'll have to improve greatly on some of his numbers compared to the cream of the crop teams in the college game.

I decided to look at the nation's top teams and see how the Irish stack up against the elite. I chose USC, Ohio State and Michigan as they're the top three teams in the country, and they also combine for four of Notre Dame's last five losses. Let's take a look:


Average rush

ND 3.8
OSU 4.7
USC 4.3
Mich 4.5

Rush TD

ND 14
OSU 24
USC 17
Mich 21

Pass TD

ND 35
OSU 31
USC 26
Mich 20

Yards per pass attempt

ND 7.5
OSU 8.5
USC 7.6
Mich 7.7

Yards per completion

ND 11.9
OSU 12.7
USC 12.4
Mich 12.4

Average yards per play

ND 5.8
OSU 6.3
USC 6.0
Mich 5.6

As you can see, the Irish stack up pretty well against the best teams in the country on offense. The one area the Irish need to improve on is their rushing. Notre Dame's 3.8 yards per carry is about average for most teams, but certainly not anywhere near where you'd like it to be. Also, Notre Dame's 14 rushing touchdowns are well below 2005's 21 touchdowns on the season. The Irish need to improve in the running game.


Scoring defense ranking

ND 56
USC 13
Mich 9

Points per game

ND 22.5
OSU 10.4
USC 15.0
Mich 14.5

Opponent average per rush

ND 3.6
OSU 3.3
USC 3.1
Mich 1.9

Rush TD allowed

ND 8
Mich 5

Pass TD allowed

ND 22
USC 11
Mich 15


ND 10
OSU 21
USC 10
Mich 12

Fumbles gained

ND 7
Mich 13

Yards per play allowed

ND 5.2
OSU 4.6
USC 4.6
Mich 4.2

Yards per completion

ND 13.9
OSU 10.0
USC 11.2
Mich 10.8

Yards per attempt

ND 7.6
OSU 5.7
USC 6.0
Mich 5.9

Pass efficiency ranking

ND 87
USC 21
Mich 18

As you can see, Notre Dame stacked up very poor against the three best teams in college football when it came to defensive stats. The Irish are giving up almost eight points per game more than all the teams above. They've surrendered seven more passing touchdowns than the next closest team (Michigan). They're giving up over three yards more per completion than all of these teams. And they're ranked 87th in passing efficiency defense.

In fact, the Irish are statistically worse in every single category than any of these three teams when it comes to defensive rankings. In other words, the Irish don't stop the run as well as any of these teams, and they are much worse against the pass than any of these three teams.

Four of the last five Notre Dame's losses have come against these three teams. The Irish have averaged just 3.1 yards rushing per game in these contests. They've allowed 1,128 (282 yards per game) passing, 709 (177 per game) rushing, and have surrendered an average of 39.75 points per game in these contests. They've also allowed nine rushing and nine passing touchdowns in these four games, and 3 special teams/defensive touchdowns in these four games.

You won't beat anyone playing defense like that. Top Stories