Being an engineer, sports nerd, and nerd in general, one thing I always love to do is dive into the numbers when I have time. Last football season was the first time that I was really able to do this, albeit more with the Dallas Cowboys than Notre Dame. I did a whole series for another website in which I examined the Cowboys offense, particularly focusing on play calling balance and red zone efficiency. While I sadly don’t have the free time this year to hit someone else’s publishing schedule, this does free up more time for me to do the same with Notre Dame football.
I will be keeping a spreadsheet of stats via the wonder that is Google Docs, so if you wish to play along you can see I’m not pulling these numbers out of my ass. Like I did with the Cowboys last season, I will highlight play balance and red zone efficiency of our offense. This season I believe is a perfect time to start seeing as how we are under a completely new offensive scheme and our QBs love throwing into the stands while in the red zone. Everyone loves to chime in on “we need to run the ball more” or “why are we passing here” and wish they had the headset on. My analysis of this balance should hopefully show the method to the BK madness (except for FG-gate, totally done with that).
Since I’m not limited by another editor this time around like I was with my Cowboys analysis, I will also keep track of the exact same stats and play calling patterns of all of our opponents. I want to see how teams approach and attack us and most importantly, I want to see how our defense reacts to it. ND’s defense is by far the number one concern of this team, so I’m really looking forward to diving into those numbers throughout the season.
Now, for a couple of explanations on some numbers and terms I will use so we are all on the same page. If you want to skip over this wall-of-text and get straight to the numbers, you can skip to the Purdue analysis (or if you want to bypass that game, head on to the Michigan analysis).
Firstly, I consider a “Red Zone Visit” any time a drive gets inside the 20–even if it’s just one play in the drive. Furthermore, if a drive hits the red zone, backs out, and reaches it again, I consider this two visits. I mostly do this for consistency sake. Expanding upon this, a “Goal-to-Go” situation arises any time our drives hit a “1st and Goal” situation. I think this is beyond vital for any red zone analysis because you aren’t just knocking on the door here, you are about to kick the damn thing down, and personally I believe you should. It is for this reason I will not keep track of FG inside the 10 for my percentage calculations as I consider anything but a TD a failure here.
In order to track the proper number of times we run a pass play, sacks are counted as well as passing attempts. College football is slightly annoying here as it counts sacks as negative rushing plays. Therefore, sacks will be taken out of the “Rushing Attempts” category on my spreadsheet and not counted as a “Rushing Play” (however, I’ll leave the yards alone as I don’t really care about that). This will only happen in the “Play Selection” section as I count passing and rushing plays by hand in the red zone instead of just using the box score.
Something else I do that other websites like ESPN don’t is count a turnover on downs as an actual turnover. Considering the massive momentum changes that a failed fourth down can provide, I honestly don’t see a reason not to do this.
I will be keeping track of how many times drives are stalled by a “Three and Out”. Note that this is only going to count drives which are stalled in normal fashion, aka, turnovers don’t count here, including going for it on fourth down. Again, this is mostly for consistency in my numbers.
Finally, I will be keeping track of the number and scoring results of drives that start in “plus” territory, noted “50+” on the spreadsheet. Basically, anytime a drive is started in opposing territory, I want to see how often we take advantage of it. On the defensive side of the ball, I want to see how often we are able to step up and prevent points.
I believe that should cover everything, now onto the analysis.
Next Page – Purdue: By the Numbers