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Five Factors Review: Stanford

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In a shootout, not turning scoring opportunities into enough points (and letting the Trees convert all of theirs) killed the Irish.

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

(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)

ESPLOSIVANESS

Plays

Yards

YPP

Notre Dame

60

532

8.87

Stanford

61

416

6.82

I've got bad news guys - this whole breakdown isn't going to make you feel better. In some alternate universe, there's a massive celebration because we are making the playoffs and just out-gained Stanford by over 2 yards per play. It's now just sadly validating - the Irish went on the road and played their best offensive game of the year against a top opponent, and are clearly a top 5-10 team, but not in the top four.

Runs 10+

% of Runs

Passes 20+

% Passes

Overall Explosive Play %

Notre Dame

10

28.6%

5

20.0%

25.0%

Stanford

5

12.5%

5

23.8%

16.4%

One thing to love about Kizer and this offense - they came to play in big games. The most explosive offensive games (by % of plays) were USC and Stanford. Notre Dame was never outgained this season in YPP, even on the road against Clemson and the Cardinal. Defensively, concerns about Christian McCaffery running wild and Kevin Hogan scrambling for major yardage were mostly calmed, but at the cost of the passing game. Hard to know if that was the gameplan going in, but I would have made Kevin Hogan beat me - it's just unfortunate he did.

Efficiency

Pass Success Rate

Run Success Rate

Overall Success Rate

Notre Dame

52.0%

48.6%

50.0%

Stanford

66.7%

50.0%

55.7%

The Cardinal did their Cardinal thing against Notre Dame - few long runs (only one over 11 yards) but lots of 4 and 5 yard gains. To the defenses' credit, they did step up in the 4th quarter as David Shaw tried to eat up clock with the lead. The Irish passing attack was shredded - the previous highest success rate they'd given up was 45% against Virginia. Hogan was precise, his receivers made very good plays, and coverage and tackling by the guys with gold helmets were not good.

Offensively, the Irish were extremely efficient and explosive, with Kizer, Josh Adams, and Will Fuller all having exceptional days. The issues were in the red zone (no surprises here) where Notre Dame failed to have a successful running or passing play until their final drive (zero  successful plays out of their first nine in the red zone, all which ended in field goals).

Field Position

Team

Avg. Starting Position

Notre Dame

OWN 27

Stanford

OWN 23

Not a lot of special teams to break down here - Notre Dame's kickoff return and coverage teams played very well, and there were barely any punts as both teams chewed up yardage with ease. Justin Yoon closed out the last two thirds of the season without missing a kick, and unfortunately Stanford's kicker didn't miss either.

Finishing Drives

Drives

Inside 40

PPD Inside 40

Notre Dame

9

7

4.14

Stanford

10

6

6.33

This is how you lose when outgaining your opponent by two yards per play - you don't convert that yardage into the points you should. The Irish settled for field goals when Stanford was converting touchdowns - the Cardinal scored on every drive inside the Notre Dame 40 with the exception of the final field goal. You can guarantee that red zone offense and scoring will be a focus of the offseason - maybe Bob Elliott's next special assignment?

Turnovers

Just one on the books - Kizer's fumble before halftime.  After a rough week holding onto the ball against Boston College, it was good to see better ball security in general by both Kizer and Adams. Stanford, on the other hand, really could have.

With injuries everywhere, this is still a top 5-10 team

This was a fantastic season - there will be lots of time to break it all down (way too much time, unfortunately) but it's probably Brian Kelly's finest to date. Playing for a national title requires playing consistently at a high level AND usually some bounces to go your way. Sometimes they will (2012) and sometimes they won't. The game at Clemson was a monsoon and Notre Dame turned the ball over four times a half. Last Saturday, Stanford never turned it over, was perfect in the red zone, and was penalized one time for five yards. Those are the breaks, but put a team of this caliber or slightly higher up there year in and year out, and you'll but in very good shape.

What we'll find out next year is what kind of program Brian Kelly is building - one that plays well enough to compete for a national title every year, or every few years. Here's to hoping it's the former.