Better, Worse...Why?

IrishEyes dissects the raw data in Predictions No. 11 and 12 of its summer series.

With less than one month of speculation remaining, I thought the outset of camp would provide a moment to project whether the 2010 Irish will fare better or worse than did the 2009 Irish or Brian Kelly's 2009 Bearcats in each major statistical category.

Note: The number in parenthesis is the team's ranking among 120 FBS Schools.

Offensive Comparison


Rushing Offense:
  • 2009 Notre Dame 128.25 yards per game (84).
  • 2009 Cincinnati 138.69 yards per game (69).
  • 2010 Verdict: Better than both, though yards-per-carry will be a greater indicator of the team's ground success.

Passing Offense:
  • 2009 Notre Dame 323.50 yards per game (5).
  • 2009 Cincinnati 308.77 yards per game (8).
  • 2010 Verdict: Worse than both. It's hard to imagine Dayne Crist and the Irish passing attack clicking in Year One on the level Jimmy Clausen displayed last season or in the same vein as the Tony Pike/Zach Collaros combo last fall.

Total Offense:
  • 2009 Notre Dame 451.75 yards per game (8).
  • 2009 Cincinnati 447.46 yards per game (11).
  • 2010 Verdict: Worse than both, though the Irish will exceed 400 yards per contest for fourth time since Lou Holtz left campus following the 1996 season.

Scoring Offense:
  • 2009 Notre Dame 30.08 points per game (32).
  • 2009 Cincinnati 38.62 points per game (4).
  • 2010 Verdict: Better than Notre Dame; worse than Cincy 2009. Notre Dame's inconsistency in the red zone last season precluded the offense from reaching a top 10 level. Still, averaging more than 38.62 points per game would set a school record by more than a full point.

Interceptions Thrown:
  • 2009 Notre Dame 5 total (5).
  • 2009 Cincinnati 8 total (20).
  • 2010 Verdict: Worse than both…but barely. Look for 8-9 picks from Irish QBs this fall.

Passing Efficiency:
  • 2009 Notre Dame 160.16 rating (4).
  • 2009 Cincinnati 161.21 rating (2).
  • 2010 Verdict: Worse than both. A top 5 efficiency rating is unlikely from a first-time starter facing at seven-plus top 50 teams.

Fumbles Lost:
  • 2009 Notre Dame 9 total (39).
  • 2009 Cincinnati 2 total (1).
  • 2010 Verdict: Better (fewer) than Notre Dame; worse (more) than Cincinnati. Two lost fumbles is ridiculous, but nine is too many for a team with championship aspirations. Notre Dame suffered several game-changing fumbles (Michigan, Navy, Connecticut) last fall. A persistent fumbler won't remain in Kelly's rotation.

Turnovers Lost:
  • 2009 Notre Dame 14 total (7).
  • 2009 Cincinnati 10 total (1).
  • 2010 Verdict: Better than Notre Dame; worse than Cincinnati…but not by much. I've projected 8-9 INT and 4-5 lost fumbles.

Tackles for Loss Allowed:
  • 2009 Notre Dame 5.17 per game (37).
  • 2009 Cincinnati 5.23 per game (39).
  • 2010 Verdict: Slightly worse than both. As Dayne Crist learns to extend plays, lost yardage situations are sure to follow. Four new tackles will face a baptism-by-fire over the first six weeks and again in November vs. Utah/USC.

Sacks Allowed:
  • 2009 Notre Dame 2.08 per game (67).
  • 2009 Cincinnati 1.15 per game (T-16).
  • 2010 Verdict: Vastly better than Notre Dame; worse than Cincinnati (detailed above).

First Downs Offense:
  • 2009 Notre Dame 24.42 per game (T-4).
  • 2009 Cincinnati 20.77 per game (38).
  • 2010 Verdict: Better than both. I don't subscribe to the theory that Notre Dame will score quickly in Kelly's first year. Look for a longer drives kept alive by a quartet of talented "possession" players in Michael Floyd, Kyle Rudolph, Armando Allen, Jonas Gray and a resurgent Mike Ragone.

3rd Down Conversion Percentage:
  • 2009 Notre Dame 41.03 percent (54).
  • 2009 Cincinnati 40.85 percent (55)
  • 2010 Verdict: Better than both by a decided margin.

4th Down Conversion Percentage:
  • 2009 Notre Dame 56.25 percent (37).
  • 2009 Cincinnati 69.23 percent (11)
  • 2010 Verdict: Better than Notre Dame; worse than Cincinnati (69 percent is a head-shaking number (the Bearcats converted 9 of 13 on 4th down last season).

Red Zone Offense:
  • 2009 Notre Dame .84 scoring percentage (T-41st).
  • 2009 Cincinnati .88 scoring percentage (T-20).
  • 2010 Verdict: Much, much better than Notre Dame and better than Cincinnati. Look for the squad's red zone offense to be a noticeable strength.

Time of Possession:
  • 2009 Notre Dame 31:55 (12).
  • 2009 Cincinnati 25:46 (120 last in the FBS).
  • 2010 Verdict: Worse (less) than Notre Dame; better (higher) than Cincinnati. As noted above, the Irish will sustain drives more so than Kelly's '09 Bearcats, but won't employ the plodding no-huddle pace featured by the 2009 Irish.

Punt Returns:
  • 2009 Notre Dame 12.89 per return (20).
  • 2009 Cincinnati 13.00 per return (18).
  • 2010 Verdict: Better than both. Look for Notre Dame to put forth its best season in the return game since 2002.

Kickoff Returns:
  • 2009 Notre Dame21.70 per return (66).
  • 2009 Cincinnati 28.52 per return (2).
  • 2010 Verdict: Much better than Notre Dame; worse than Cincinnati. A No. 1 or No. 2 national finish for a program that hasn't returned a regular season kick for a touchdown since 2002 would be impressive.

We'll publish the defensive statistical comparisons in Part II of Better, Worse…Why? shortly.


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