It's a Numbers Game
• As pointed out by, well, just about everyone, Notre Dame is currently on pace for not only the worst offense in the country, but the worst offense in at least the past 9 years of D-I college football. Saurian Sagacity has the breakdown of the numbers, but suffice to say, ND will need to average 267.0 yards per game over the final four games to avoid sliding in under the 214.0 yards per game averaged by Rutgers in 2002.
• One number that will help the Irish in their quest to avoid becoming the worst offense since 1999 is the total defense ranking of ND's remaining teams. The first eight opponents average out to a total defensive ranking of 25th place. The poor Irish offense certainly helped their overall rankings, but if you take the Irish game out of the equation, the first eight opponents still average out to 35th in total defense.
The remaining four opponents average out to 90th place, so it's not unreasonable to expect a much more improved offensive showing over the final four games. The worst defense that the Irish faced in the first four games was Purdue and Notre Dame put up 462 yards of total offense on them. Purdue's defense is currently ranked 56th. The remaining four teams check in at 53rd (Air Force), 94th (Stanford), 101st (Duke), and 105th (Navy).
• Thus I was curious to see where the Irish offense fell with regard to Notre Dame teams of years past. Currently, the worst total offense output for a Notre Dame team since 1946 is 220.0 yards per game in 1963. The Irish went 2-7 that year. The current 2007 ND squad is averaging 187.6 yards per game. By contrast, the top Irish offense was in 1970 when the Irish put up 510.0 yards per game. The top years for rushing and passing were 1973 (350.3) and 2005 (330.3), respectively.
• CFBstats has added even more number crunching capability worth checking out. Now you can sort national offensive and defensive averages by a number of categories such as home, away, grass, turf, vs. winning teams, vs. ranked (AP), and many more. It's fun to check out what kind of surprising results pop up when you start sorting. For example, ND's anemic rushing offense is dead last in the country by a sizable margin. However, when you look at the rushing offense rankings only against teams ranked in the AP Top 25, ND's rushing O did a better job than teams like Arizona, Purdue, Clemson, Texas Tech, and Wake Forest. On the other side of the ball, ND's defense is ranked 35th in the country against teams with winning records. Ultimately this just falls into the category of lies, damned lies, and statistics, but CFBstats has done a great job making sorting through piles of numbers very easy.
• Speaking of defense, Trevor Laws still has more tackles per game at 8.25 than any defensive lineman in country. Pat Kuntz not only has more passes broken up than any defensive lineman in the country with 9, he's ranked 13th in the nation, regardless of position.
• Taking another look at the all-purpose yards, excepting quarterbacks, broken down by class, here's where the team stands.
Freshmen - 1407 yds
Sophomores - 815
Juniors - 185
Seniors - 124
5th Years - 327
We Want M.O.E.
The Irish offense took a step backwards against a tough Trojan defense as the M.O.E. (Major Offensive Errors) checked in at an ugly 20%. This was the highest M.O.E. score since the Michigan game, also a 38-0 blowout loss. The Irish offense lapsed back into bad habits, and the high sack total (7) was one of the main reasons for the high score. On a lone good note, ND did have the fewest offensive penalties of the entire season.
Southern Cal, on the other hand, did a good job of minimizing mistakes and notched a solid 8% M.O.E. Only Georgia Tech played better mistake-free football against the Irish this year. That is rather impressive considering the Trojan quarterback, Sanchez, was making his first road start.
After 8 games, the Irish are averaging an offensive M.O.E. of 19% while the Irish opponents average stands at 12%.
For the complete breakdown, here is the spreadsheet.
Season Long Running Averages
All season long numbers can be found here.