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Five Factors: Wake Forest Review

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The stats aren't very pretty either, and how Boston College is the #2 defense in the nation.

"My team outplayed and outgained them" - Coach who is proven wrong by advanced stats.
"My team outplayed and outgained them" - Coach who is proven wrong by advanced stats.
Jon Durr/Getty Images

(Confused? Check out the first Five Factors review from Texas or Bill Connelly's Five Factors - the most important stats that determine who wins a college football game)

The only garbage possession not counted was the last Wake Forest possession - this is a subjective decision, but was the only real inflection point where style of play and personnel really changed.

Explosiveness

Plays

Yards

YPP

Notre Dame

49

282

5.76

Wake Forest

66

301

4.56

The Irish offense had moved the ball with remarkable consistency before this game, averaging over 7 yards per play and held below 6.5 YPP just once, at Clemson (6.33). This was Notre Dame's worst offensive output of the season - I'm usually not a big fan of "take out one or two plays", but the fact that 48 of Notre Dame's plays totaled 184 yards (3.83 YPP) is startling, and hopefully a huge outlier.

Defensively, this was a decent performance against a woeful offense. Qualitatively there were things not to like, but avoiding allowing a big play (which was about the only thing the Demon Deacons offense was decent at) is a small victory.

Runs 10+

% of Runs

Passes 20+

% Passes

Overall Explosive Play %

Notre Dame

5

18.5%

1

4.5%

12.2%

Wake Forest

3

8.1%

2

6.9%

7.6%

Offensively, a very quiet day for the passing game - the longest gain was a 22-yarder to Will Fuller, and there were few long attempts downfield. 22 passing plays produced a total of just 90 yards, and while the gameplan was certainly conservative, that's just poor production with an offense this talented. Wake Forest's defense is a decent unit, but they came in ranking 73rd in S&P+, and were able to disrupt and confuse DeShone Kizer.

Efficiency

Pass Success Rate

Run Success Rate

Overall Success Rate

Notre Dame

40.9%

37.0%

38.8%

Wake Forest

37.9%

37.8%

37.9%

This the kind of thing that probably made Dave Clawson say "we outplayed them", even though you're about to see that the Irish still had minor to decent advantages in each of the Five Factors. Both teams were pretty equally efficient moving the ball, which put in context is a huge win for the Demon Deacons. For the second week in a row an opponent with a middling rushing attack was able to run fairly well on the Notre Dame defense, especially once they stopped putting in the running quarterback (which telegraphed a read option every time). I asked last week for rest for the defensive line, and they definitely got more of it, with Daniel Cage sitting out and much more time for Trumbetti, Blankenship, and even a Doug Randolph sighting. So not time to worry yet - the Irish can afford to rest and heal a little bit with two anemic offenses before Stanford.

On the other side of the ball, this was easily the worst offensive line performance of the year. First I'll give credit where it's due - Wake Forest actually entered this game with a surprisingly adequate run defense - 40th in rushing success rate, and 35th in opponent opportunity rate. They played well and executed a smart gameplan defensively. But there are rumblings that the line is beat up, and Saturday's play certainly lends credibility to that. It's definitely something to keep an eye on next week against an extremely stout Boston College run defense.

Field Position

Team

Avg. Starting Position

Notre Dame

OWN 29

Wake Forest

OWN 26

Not much special teams action to report, as Notre Dame gained many possessions from failed Wake 4th down conversions and a missed field goal. Tyler Newsome had a great day with the exception of another consecutive game with a kickoff out of bounds. Justin Yoon hasn't been busy lately, but he also hasn't missed a kick since September 26.

For the record, I continue to count special teams or defensive touchdowns as essentially starting field position in the opponent's end zone. I don't believe this is how S&P and most traditional stats measure it, and I think the rationale is that it's meant to compare how far each offense needs to go for points, and in this case the offense never touches the ball. My reasoning is that if they returned it to the one yard line it would count towards field position, so why not when it goes for a touchdown? The five factors also don't seem to capture special teams/defensive touchdowns too much minus the turnovers column. But if you ever compare to other data sources, they may look a little different, and that's why.

Finishing Drives

Drives

Inside 40

PPD Inside 40

Notre Dame

8

3

7.00

Wake Forest

10

5

1.40

On its surface, there's a lot to like here - no red zone struggles, and the defense pulled together a classic (but uncharacteristic for 2015) "bend but don't break" performance. On the negative side, for the offense to only cross the Wake Forest 40 yard line three times in a game? That's not great at all.

Turnovers

A 1-0 win for Notre Dame that featured a few missed opportunities. The pick-six for Andrew Trumbetti (we told you not to sleep on him!) off a Tommy Rees like pass-slip-fumble thing was excellent, but an Okwara strip-sack later was fantastic until Irish players just looked at it and Wake recovered. The longest play for the day for the Demon Deacons, a 52-yard pass, also looked like Cole Luke had a great shot at a pick. The cornerbacks in man coverage rarely are beat, and if they can continue to look back for the ball it feels like they've got some interceptions left in them down the stretch.

Notre Dame has played very vanilla games as far as turnovers - there's been an average of just 2.4 turnovers per game (ND and opponents) the Irish have played in, which is tied for ninth fewest nationally.

Extreme Eagles

How good is the BC defense? Let's employ the old blind resume trick...

Statistic (S&P+)

TEAM A (National Rank)

TEAM B (National Rank)

Overall Defense

11.5 (#2)

9.6 (#1)

Rushing Defense

157.7 (#2)

158.5 (#1)

Opponent Rushing Success Rate

23.5% (#1)

29.2% (#4)

Stuff Rate

32.2% (#1)

23.7% (#21)

Passing Defense

119.6 (#17)

158.1 (#1)

Opponent Passing Success Rate

30.9% (#6)

30.2% (#2)

Sack Rate

155.5 (#8)

192.2 (#2)

Havoc Rate

22.9% (#2)

23.3% (#1)

Guesses?

Team A is Boston College. Team B is Alabama. There are slight differences in strengths, and I'm not arguing that they're equal, but there should be no underestimating this Eagle front. So far this year they've been better than Temple and Clemson, two defenses that gave Notre Dame's running attack fits. That pass rush is frightening too, given that Notre Dame's offense is now down to 79th nationally in sack rate allowed and an abysmal 106th on standard downs.

The good news is that the Eagles offense is just as bad as their defense is good. They haven't been able to run or throw (but have gone run heavy, which makes sense when you're on your 4th string, walkon freshman QB), and aren't efficient or explosive. They're the worst P5 offense and one of the very worst offenses in all of FBS - their offensive line gives up sacks and doesn't create any holes in the running game. They're averaging 7.6 punts per game, and I know after last week we're all very into punting records - that feels like a pretty historic pace.

What to watch for:
  • Can Notre Dame's offensive line open up bigger running lanes and protect DeShone Kizer against an excellent Boston College front seven?
  • What will the offensive gameplan look like - passing more where it looks like the Irish may have a bigger advantage? How conservative will the playcalling be, knowing that the defense should be able to hold the BC offense to very few scoring opportunities?
  • Speaking of the Eagle offense, will they try to follow to Wake Forest gameplan of chewing up clock and limiting possessions? If so, can they get the first downs to do it? I'd also be on full alert for a trick play or two Saturday - it makes perfect sense if you struggle moving the ball against a defense that's shown weakness there.