Friday, September 25, 2009

Statistically Speaking: Michigan State | by Pat

It Came From the Game Notes

• Michael Floyd didn't even play 2.5 games this season. But he finished the year with 358 yards receiving. That is only 3 yards behind what the most productive receiver in 2007, Robby Parris, did over the entire season.

• Junior RB Armando Allen is a perfect six-for-six on third down and short (two yards or less) this year, converting all six attempts into first downs.

• The Irish have never lost under head coach Charlie Weis when outrushing its opponent. Notre Dame outgained Michigan State, 133-105, on the ground to improve to 17-0 since 2005.

• Under Charlie Weis, ND's defense has allowed the opponent to score at least 30 points 20 times out of 53 games (38%). ND is 3-17 in such games with 2 of the 3 wins coming against Michigan State. Stanford is the other. Here's how frequent other ND coaches allowed 30+ points in a game. Willingham - 22%, Davie - 20%, Holtz - 13%, Faust - 14%, Devine - 9%, Ara - 6%.

Battle For First Down

It's always nice when the stats agree with what you saw with your own eyes.

Open up this week's spreadsheet and you'll find the second worst 1st down run win rate since Tenuta came to ND. The 20% win rate against the run is second only to the 11% put up against Syracuse and Hawaii last year.

Things aren't better in the passing game. Only the Michigan game in '08 had a worse 1st down win rate against the pass. Even worse, that 29% win rate against UM last season was based on only 7 passes. This past Saturday, ND only won 33% of 1st down passes with the Spartans chucking the ball 18 different times on 1st down.

Put it all together and you get an overall 1st down win rate of 24%, which is the lowest win rate since I started tracking this metric at the beginning of the 2008 season when Tentua came on board.


Get your fancy google spreadsheet here.

Only three times last year did ND manage to pick up at least 60% of the available yards in a single game (Purdue, Washington, Hawaii). So far this season, ND has done it twice as the offense hit the 60% mark against the Spartans on Saturday. It was a bit curious how the injury to Floyd impacted the offense and if it would foreshadow anything for the upcoming Purdue game.

Floyd was healthy for four drives with a total available 260 yards to be gained. ND picked up 186 of those yards for an outstanding 71.5%. Three of the drives ended in two touchdowns and a chip shot field goal (after Floyd's injury on what should have been a touchdown catch). The only blemish was losing 3 yards on the third series and going three and out.

After Floyd was out, ND had 6 non-garbage time drives with 430 available yards. The offense gained 228 of those possible 430 yards for a lower, but still decent 53%. Considering the loss of the #1 receiver, Jimmy's foot injury, and Armando Allen fighting through some nagging bumps and bruises, that's not a bad figure. It should be expected that the offense will regress a bit without the nearly unstoppable Floyd, but it might not be quite as big a dropoff if the team can replicate the success of the post-Floyd MSU game drives.

Over on defense, the stats once again back up the obviously poor defense ND played. The Spartans picked up 60.8% of their available yards, which is the highest number since Tenuta showed up. MSU joins last year's Southern Cal team as the only two teams to hit 60% against the Irish defense, with MSU actually slightly edging out the Trojans for the top spot overall.

Gimme MOE

All of our metrics this week are signing the same tune. The offense did a solid job while the defense just couldn't do their part. Witness this week's MOE chart.

The offensive MOE isn't quite as good as the drive charts though. ND for the second week in a row was over the 12% mark with a 14% MOE score. Again the big culprits are offensive penalties and dropped passes. Crist's interception to end the first half was largely meaningless in the grand scheme of things, but did knock up the MOE score a whole percentage point. With Floyd out and Jimmy working on a bum toe, the rest of the offense will have to shore up the penalties and not put as many passes on the turf.

It would be nice though if the defense picked up their end of the bargain and started to force more mistakes by the opposing offense. Despite the fact that MSU featured a solid collection of receivers and tight ends (#1 overall in our pre-season position preview if you recall), they still came to ND with a QB making his third career start, freshmen running backs, and a patchwork offensive line. With all of that inexperience and ND's designed-to-create-pressure-and-force-mistakes defense, the Spartans still managed to hit 12% on the MOE scale. Following on the heels of Nevada's 14% and Michigan's 8%, it's clear that ND's defense is not doing too much to push teams out of their offensive comfort zone.

Season Long Running Stats

The season's already a quarter over if you can believe it. Over the next game or two, the stats will slowly start to settle down and there won't be quite as much swing from week to week. In the meantime, check out the trend column for each of the four major categories to see how ND is doing against last year's numbers. Not really a surprise that the offensive is still much improved and the defensive has fallen behind last year's pace in many categories. (It is kind of funny that the only defensive category doing statistically better than last year is total yards run defense).

What might surprise some is the near across the board improvement in special teams. There isn't overwhelming improvement, and the dropoff in kickoff return coverage is sizable and alarming, but all of the other stats we track show upticks so far. Perhaps the most impressive is the kickoff return average of 27.6 yards per return. That's good for 18th in the nation so far.

In another special teams oddity, three games into the season, no team has attempted to return a punt against ND. Every kick has either gone out of bounds, been downed by ND, or was a fair catch by the opponent. That is helping to keep ND's net punting average over 40 yards and good for 32nd best in the nation.