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<P>What really has changed? What can we point to that will convince us that the 2002 Notre Dame team is going to be any different from the 2001 team? Did an influx of NFL potentials find their way to South Bend? What has really changed that convinces Notre Dame fans that this team is going to do better than the 2001 Irish? </P>

Notre Dame doesn't play Nebraska of Texas A&M this year. Instead, they are replaced with Florida State and Michigan. I would take the former if given a chance. Notre Dame lost the most productive defensive lineman they have had in many years in Anthony Weaver. Notre Dame also lost two starting wide receivers, two starting linebackers, two starters at safety and one offensive lineman. This team also lost their top 3 rushers from last year and their starting tight end.

Notre Dame opened the season last year with 162 total yards of offense in an embarrassing loss to Nebraska. They closed the season with 162 total yards of offense in a win against Purdue. Notre Dame didn't have a single game where they threw for over 200 yards last year. They had 4 games where they didn't throw for 100 yards. They had 3 games where they didn't reach 200 yards in total offense. They also had 5 games where they didn't reach 300 yards in total offense. Notre Dame quarterbacks threw more than twice as many interceptions (11) as touchdowns (4). They also fumbled 27 and somehow only lost 12. They managed to score 20 total touchdowns on offense (less than 2 a game). The amassed 3187 total yards of offense with 2070 coming on the ground and 1117 in the air.

Let's compare them to the National Champion Miami Hurricanes. Miami had one 600-yard effort of total offense. They had 3 games of over 500 yards, 7 games over 400 yards, they never had a game where they didn't have at least 350 yards total offense (ND had 2 total). They rushed for 2251 yards and 25 touchdowns. They threw for 2752 yards and 24 touchdowns. They amassed 5003 yards of total offense and 49 touchdowns.

On defense Notre Dame was pretty good. The Irish defense gave up 300 yards or more 7 times. They allowed 250 or more yards in offense 10 times. The defense did have 14 interceptions and recovered 12 fumbles. Compared to the offense that turned the ball over 20 times, they were +6 in turnovers. The also gave up a total of 10 rushing touchdowns and 13 passing touchdowns. Just a shade over 2 touchdowns a game. Notre Dame gave up a total of 1455 yards on the ground and 10 touchdowns. They also surrendered 1899 yards passing and 13 touchdowns.

Let's compare them to Miami. Miami gave up on 400-yard game. They had 4 total games where they surrendered 300 yards or more. They had 4 games where they surrendered less than 250 total yards. They surrendered 7 touchdowns on the ground and 5 in the air for a total of 12 or a shade of one a game. They allowed 1460 yards of rushing and 1520 yards in the air. This defense had 27 interceptions and 18 fumbles recovered. Compare that to their offense's 9 interceptions and 10 fumbles, that is a plus 26 or +2.3 (amazing stat) a game.

The difference appears to be 469 yards a game versus 289 yards in total offense. 4.4 touchdowns on offense compared to 1.8. On defense, they look much better, 270 yards versus 304. Miami had a big advantage in touchdowns allowed with 12 total versus 26 or a total of 84 points, 7.6 points a game.

That Miami team was one of the best I have ever seen. Somehow, they managed to win every game while committing 109 penalties for 944 total yards. Notre Dame had 74 penalties for 626 yards, which is kind of high. I guess when you are good you can overcome mistakes.

Last year, Notre Dame gave up more yards than they gained and had a very good defense. They also allowed more touchdowns than they scored 26-20. In reality, you would have to be lucky to win 5 games. You must remember Notre Dame had a pretty good defense. Miami averaged almost 200 yards a game in total offense and scored almost 3 times as many touchdowns. Notre Dame had 3 games where they didn't gain 200 yards in total offense.

So what is going to be different this year? Notre Dame still has the same quarterback. They have 4 of the same offensive line. They lost their top 3 rushers. They lost their top 2 wide receivers, tight end and some key players on defense. What am I missing here?

I think we are all hoping on the X factor. Can opening up the playbook on first and second down help this offense? Can Holiday be a drop-back QB? Will spreading out the field allow for more running room for the running backs? What is the X factor? Is it a new head coach? How can the same team or new players who have never played a game be expected to take a new offensive system and produce more yards, touchdowns and wins when the same players or backups couldn't do it last year? Is a new head coach worth 4 more wins a year?


I am right there with you. I think it will happen. When you look at the evidence or hard facts, it suggests Notre Dame is in for a long year. The stats suggest it could be more difficult year than the previous considering the numbers in lost starters. Why are we so optimistic? Are we being realistic here? Is a different coach, offensive philosophy and attitude the difference in 4-5 more wins in a season? Notre Dame still has the same problems. Maybe I am a dreamer, an optimist but I am right there with you. Welcome to Notre Dame Coach Willingham!!!! When do bowl tickets go on sale?

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