Blue and Gold Illustrated

August 2016

Blue & Gold Illustrated: America's Foremost Authority on Notre Dame Football

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Page 57 of 134

IRISH ANALYTICS BRIAN FREMEAU T he 2015 offense and the 2012 de- fense have been the best units of the Brian Kelly era. More than one Irish fan has lamented the fact that those two units played three years apart rather than as one. Surely, a combina- tion of Notre Dame's 2015 offense with its 2012 defense would have made for an ex- ceptional team. But would it have been championship-cali- ber? My data suggests that the best Irish of- fensive and defensive units of the last six years would still fall short in comparison with the national championship team profiles of the same span. The gap between Notre Dame at its recent best and a champion can be identified in three key measures on both sides of the ball. Available Yards Percentage — This measure is a better look at yardage production and efficiency than raw yardage totals commonly cited. The available yards on a drive are mea- sured from starting field position to end zone — a drive that starts on a team's own 20-yard line has 80 avail- able yards. A touchdown drive on that possession would represent 100 percent of available yards earned, and a drive that moves only 20 yards before resulting in a punt would rep- resent 25 percent. Notre Dame's offense last season earned 57.8 percent of available yards on non-garbage posses- sions, the 11th-best rate in the nation. It was a solid mark, but ranks as merely average in compari- son to the available yards percentages of the last six national champions. The 2013 Florida State Semi- noles and 2014 Ohio State Buckeyes easily cleared 60 percent of available yards in their championship runs. The Irish bend-but-almost-never- break 2012 defense allowed only 37.9 percent of available yards, good for only the 23rd-best rate in the nation that year. In the last six years, the national championship defenses al- lowed only 31.4 percent of available yards on average, and two of them — the 2011 and 2015 Alabama teams — allowed less than 30 percent. First Down Rate — Basically an in- verse of three-and-out rates, this rep- resents the frequency of a team earn- ND Must Improve Efficiency To Be A Contender Head coach Brian Kelly's program has made strides in recent seasons, but still has work to do to close the gap and become national championship-caliber. PHOTO BY JOE RAYMOND

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