The Notre Dame Fighting Irish are 8-0 for the first time since their undefeated regular season in 2012, which has inspired tonight’s comparison of both teams’ offenses.
The 2018 Irish have run 592 plays so far this year, which is equivalent to the 2012 Irish’s first eight games plus the first 57 plays of their game against the Pittsburgh Panthers. (The Irish were down 20-6 with 3:37 remaining in the third quarter.)
Notre Dame Offense Through 592 Plays
|Points per play||0.37||0.46|
|Yds gained from run||1664||1518|
|Yards per run attempt||4.7||4.4|
|Yds gained from pass||1713||2065|
|Yards per comp||12.3||12.0|
|Yards per attempt||7.1||8.3|
|Total yards gained (run & pass)||3377||3583|
|First downs by pass||80||92|
|Touchdowns thrown % of all TDs||26.1%||41.2%|
|Interceptions per attempt||2.1%||3.2%|
|Sacked per pass attempt||6.3%||5.6%|
|Negative yardage plays||57||61|
|Explosive pass plays (20+ yards)||27||33|
|Explosive run plays (12+ yards)||35||40|
|Explosive plays total||62||73|
|First down success rate||46.3%||45.2%|
|Second down success rate||47.2%||43.7%|
|Third down success rate||43.7%||44.8%|
|Fourth down success rate||0.5||0.625|
|Overall success rate||46.1%||45.1%|
First, let’s note the similarities.
The mix of running and passing plays is almost identical, as are the yards gained from each option. To perhaps no one’s surprise, the 2012 Irish are better on the ground, while the 2018 Irish are better through the air. The number of first downs accumulated is nearly the same, although that may need more context to determine if it’s significant.
The biggest difference, in my eyes, is the scoring.
The 2012 Irish scored 217 points, including 23 touchdowns. The 2018 Irish have 272 points and 34 touchdowns scored. This is where the current Irish seem to differentiate from their predecessors: Ian Book and Brandon Wimbush have combined for 14 touchdown passes, while Everett Golson and Tommy Rees only managed six throws for scores to this point.
Turnovers and sacks are about the same, as are the number of times that quarterbacks, runners and receivers got stuffed behind the line.
You’re getting about the same amount of big-play excitement out of this year’s squad as you did six years ago. The 2012 Irish had five plays of 50 or more yards, six plays of more than 40 yards and 15 plays of 30 yards or more. The 2018 Irish have three plays of 50 or more yards, seven plays of 40 or more yards and 19 plays of 30 or more yards.
2012 & 2018 Running Backs
Dexter Williams’ output is remarkably similar to Cierre Wood’s through 592 plays. Wood was suspended for the first two games of the 2012 schedule, while Williams missed the first four.
The 2018 Irish don’t have a bell cow back, so they seem to be taking Theo Riddick’s touches and splitting them between Tony Jones Jr. and Jafar Armstrong. The results are fairly similar.
I would have guessed Everett Golson carried the ball far more in 2012 than Ian Book has so far this year, but those figures are fairly similar as well.
Wide receivers, 2012 vs 2018
Book’s accuracy has upped the catch counts for a lot of his receivers. Miles Boykin’s 36 catches so far this season are 10 more than any player on the 2012 Irish to that point in their season. Tyler Eifert finished the year with 50 balls caught, which is likely for Boykin by year’s end. Chase Claypool and Chris Finke have an outside chance of reaching that plateau as well.
It’s fascinating to think that Finke has been as valuable a weapon to this year’s offense as Eifert was to that year. (To be fair to our former tight end, he had three touchdown catches to Finke’s singular score by this point in their respective seasons.)
While recognizing that we are only looking at one side of the equation, how has this year felt in comparison to that year, particularly on offense? Are you surprised that these figures are so similar? Are there other data points worth looking at?
Semi-related: My sheet comparing each Irish’s quarterback’s first 572 snaps (i.e. the entirety of Book’s career) is right here. I added success rate stats for DeShone Kizer and Everett Golson in the past week as I slowly integrate that statistic into my analysis.