Notre Dame by the numbers: Is there hope for the Irish?

Notre Dame by the numbers: Is there hope for the Irish?
October 16, 2013, 2:15 pm
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With Notre Dame's season half over, we have a pretty good idea of where the Irish stand as a team. They're 4-2, and despite being currently unranked still have a chance to re-enter the BCS picture.

It's a faint chance, seeing as it would take winning out — which means beating Stanford in Palo Alto in late November.

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Looking at some half-season numbers, though, could give us an indication of Notre Dame's chances of finishing 10-2. All stats are ranked among the 125 FBS teams:

What Notre Dame's done well

Rushing defense: 23rd (122.3 yards/game)
Sacks allowed: 4th (4 total)

What Notre Dame hasn't done well

Rushing offense: 96th (137 yards/game)
Total offense: 81st (387.5 yards/game)
Red zone touchdown percentage: 97th (52.6 percent)
Passing defense: 89th (252.2 yards/game)
Opponent third down conversions: 80th (40.9 percent)
Penalty yards: 92nd (57.7 yards/game)

(Note: There are more here, but these are the most important ones)

Obviously, these are weighted heavily against Notre Dame — but as a team, the Irish don't rank in the top 40 of many categories, while ranking near or in the bottom 40 of many more.

First, the good news: Notre Dame is still good against the run, moreso in terms of stopping running backs than mobile quarterbacks. As long as Louis Nix is still eating up double teams on the interior, Notre Dame's run defense will be fine. And on offense, Tommy Rees generally has time to throw, a combination of his doing and his offensive line's success.

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But for a 4-2 team, there are plenty of negatives. The running game has been generally ineffective, although it looked better against Oklahoma and Arizona State. When Notre Dame gets in the red zone, it struggles to score touchdowns and often has to settle for field goals.

The defense has struggled to get off the field, too, largely because opposing teams have been able to throw the ball too easily against them.

And compounding efforts on both sides of the ball, Notre Dame's committed too many penalties, from simple snap infractions to debilitating pass interference calls.

Without the Arizona State win, there wouldn't be a ton of reason for hope here — but, given it was the last game of the first half, and given how much better Notre Dame looked in it, there's something to hang onto there. Here's how all those negative numbers played out just against Arizona State:

Rushing offense: 145 yards
Total offense: 424 yards
Red zone touchdown percentage: 50 percent
Passing defense: 362 yards
Opponent third down conversions: 30.7 percent
Penalty yards: 64

Those aren't great numbers, but all except passing defense represent improvements. A plus-two turnover margin helped mitigate Taylor Kelly's passing success as well (on the season, Notre Dame has an even turnover margin).

We'll certainly have a better idea of the direction in which Notre Dame is going after this weekend's matchup with USC. If it's like what we saw on Oct. 5 against Arizona State, Notre Dame would appear to be in good shape. More specifically, they'd be in good shape for a shot at 10 wins and a possible BCS berth heading into Nov. 30's date with Stanford in Palo Alto.

But if the Irish fall back into the patterns that built this wobbly statistical profile, that's an opportunity that won't materialize.