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Five Wide Fullbacks: The Sack Edition

5WF is back with sacks, turnovers, and rushing yards.

Jonathan Daniel

1. Let's talk about Stephon Tuitt right now. What kind of school records can this mammoth defensive end break?

It seems like the big fella hasn't been getting as much attention as he was earlier in the year. He just picked up 1.5 more sacks this past weekend and that brings his season total to 10.0 sacks overall.

That total is 5th nationally and the 2nd best among BCS defenders.

Tuitt now needs 3.5 sacks to tie Justin Tuck's single-season Notre Dame record set back in 2003. He'll also have the benefit of playing an extra game in comparison to Tuck and would need just 4 sacks over the next 4 games to set the school record.

Mr. Tuck is also the career leader at Notre Dame with 24.5 sacks. It's worth noting that the Irish didn't keep this stat until 1982, so there's that. Anyway, assuming he stays healthy Tuitt needs just 13 sacks over his next 17 games to break the career record in South Bend.

He's on pace to do some special things in blue and gold.

2. In the summer you wrote an article taking a look at the turnovers, penalties, fumbles lost and all sorts of good stuff pertaining to Notre Dame teams since 1981. How are the 2012 Fighting Irish doing in these categories this season?

Right now the Irish have turned the ball over 11 times in 9 games. That's on pace for just under 16 turnovers on the season which would rank as the 7th best season since 1981.

Last year Notre Dame only caused 14 turnovers which was the lowest amount since the university has been keeping records. This season there have already been 18 turnovers gained, which is on pace for 26 overall. That's a decent number and just slightly above the school average since '81.

Notre Dame is +7 in turnovers which is 9th best for now.

So far, Brian Kelly is the only coach going back to Gerry Faust not to have a season in which his team has more penalty yards than the opponent. BK was +290 in penalty yardage coming into this season (thanks to a phenomenal 2010 season at +246, best since '81) and has the Irish at +51 right now through 9 games.

Notre Dame has fumbled 15 times this season, which is on pace for just under 22 fumbles---just slightly above the 30-year school average.

The luck on fumbles lost has been there in 2012 however. The school average since 1981 has been to lose 49.84% of fumbles, but this year the number is at 33.3% tied for the best mark in over 30 years.

Irish opponents have only fumbled 12 times this season, on pace for just over 17 on the season. That's about 4 fumbles fewer than the average so some of that luck is taken back here. Opponents have only lost 41.6% of their fumbles this season as well, which is 12.2% lower than the 30-year average.

3. Obviously there's been a lot of talk about a national title for Notre Dame this season as the Irish sit at 9-0. However, this great start also has fans around the country thinking about titles and dominance in 2013 and beyond. Are we jumping the gun a little bit looking past this season?

I don't think it's jumping the gun per se, as long as everyone enjoys this magical season in the present. But college football is a long-term outlook kind of sport with scheduling, recruiting classes, returning players, etc.

The Irish will definitely be losing starters Theo Riddick, Braxston Cave, Mike Golic, Manti Te'o, Kapron Lewis-Moore, and Zeke Motta. Tyler Eifert and Cierre Wood could likely move on to the NFL, as could Zack Martin. Throw in Dan Fox and/or Carlo Calabrese and the number of lost experienced players is concerning.

Still the program is in really good health, and it's really not that absurd to think that Notre Dame could go (at worst) 14-3 through the 2013 season. Heck, the Irish might be favored in every regular season game through next year and let's take a look at next year's schedule:

Temple- A nice easy game to open the season.

at Michigan- Could be tough as always, but what's life without Denard going to be like? They also lose a ton of linemen on both sides of the ball and don't really have any proven offensive playmakers.

at Purdue- A program likely going through a coaching change and breaking in a new quarterback.

Michigan State- If they can get their offensive line together they could have a nice offense. They'll lose a few important players on defense though.

Oklahoma- Very similar to State in that they could have a strong offense but are losing some key playmakers on defense. You have to like that they're breaking in a new starter at quarterback.

Arizona State- Intriguing game that has potential to be tough.

USC- Barkley and Woods will be gone. Sanctions are tightening their grip. They'll be coming off a disappointing season. This game isn't that scary.

at Air Force- If it's anything like the 2011 game, we're fine.

Navy- Not too worried.

at Pitt- They'll be returning a lot of players, but lose Sunseri and Graham---two keys to their offense. This could be a tough game, but we'll see how they adjust on offense.

BYU- Close game this year but it shouldn't have been.

at Stanford- Potential to be a real tough game. They lose their work horse back and their offense isn't scary in the least bit, but a lot of pieces return on defense.

4. Remember when this offense was being compared to the 2002 squad?

Yup, sure do. We had a few too many people getting a little sleepy on Everett Golson and the coaching staff.

After a poor stretch from Purdue through Michigan, the Irish have boosted their yards-per-play average to 5.70. That's still a little below last year's offense and last week's 5.02 YPP against Pitt wasn't great, but the team has an opportunity to jack that average over 6.0 with games coming up against Boston College and Wake Forest.

It wouldn't surprise me if the offense remains over 6.0 heading into bowl season either.

5. Even with the loss of Jonas Gray's historically productive 2011 season, are the Irish better on the ground this year?

It appears so. Averaging out the numbers this is what the past two years look like:

2011: 433 rushes, 2,085 yards, 4.82 average, 25 touchdowns

2012: 541 rushes, 2,602 yards, 4.81 average, 26 touchdowns

That's a testament to the coaching staff, the play of the offensive line, and the development of players like Golson, McDaniel, and Atkinson. Even with some of the head scratching stuff surrounding Cierre Wood, this team is running the ball way more than last year and doing so at the same productive pace.

What's more, they are currently sitting at 1,803 rushing yards and it's really not outlandish to think that they'll reach 2,400 yards after meeting Boston College and Wake Forest in the next two weeks.