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Around the ACC: Week 5 Notre Dame Football Analytics Update

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Why you should feel even better about the Irish than last week

NCAA Football: New Mexico at Notre Dame Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports

With the Notre Dame Fighting Irish finally getting back to the season, we’ve updated the ACC team charts we posted last week to include the Week 5 games. For all charts except the Point Differential view we only looked at 1st, 2nd, and 3rd down and excluded garbage time in games against FBS competition (we’re not sure if this is good or bad news for Florida State with how their game went against something called Jacksonville State). There isn’t anything new to discuss with the Irish but we’re starting to get a better idea of who each of the other teams are.

For all these charts, the top right quadrant is good and the bottom left quadrant is bad.

OVERALL AND OFFENSE

Clemson’s offense is in a class of its own (0.53 EPA/pass), followed by Miami and then everyone else. Notre Dame’s passing game needs to improve to have a shot at the College Football Playoff. It doesn’t need to reach Clemson’s or even Miami’s level due to Notre Dame’s excellent ground game providing support, but they need to separate themselves from the other 12 teams to go anywhere this season.

No updates for Florida State but they’re an early candidate to be the worst team in the ACC. The lack of practice time for the Irish the last couple weeks is a concern, but this game should be good for shaking off the rust and preparing for what’s becoming a tough road to the Clemson game.

DEFENSE

Pitt’s defense is starting to come back down to earth, as we predicted last week. The Panthers and the Irish have the top two defenses in the conference.

The Seminoles’ defense is second worst, above only Wake Forest and struggling against both the passing and rushing games.

Clemon’s defense has been pretty mediocre so far, possibly showing a chink in the armor of the offensive juggernaut.

POINT DIFFERENTIAL

This chart shows expected point differential vs. actual point differential. Expected point differential is a team’s total offensive EPA minus their total defensive EPA per play. As you can see, it correlates very well with a team’s actual point differential, and we can use this to identify teams that have been overachieving or underachieving expected results and may see some regression (actual numbers re-aligning with expected numbers, either positively or negatively) come their way in the future. I have changed this chart to reflect points per game instead of season totals due to the discrepancies in games played.

Notre Dame leads the conference in both expected and actual point differential, followed closely by Clemson with Miami rounding out the top tier.

Again, as predicted last week, Pitt experienced some negative regression over the weekend. They are still a quality team and have an excellent defense, but their results now better reflect their performance (16.4 expected differential, 17 actual).

Florida State has been the worst team in the ACC when facing FBS competition and, if you can believe it, they have slightly overachieved relative to expectations. The Seminoles have an average expected point differential of -15.7 but have had an average point differential of -9.3.

Finally, Duke and Virginia Tech are our teams to watch for regression. The Blue Devils have seen worse results than they deserve, with an expected differential of -6.9 but an actual differential of -14. The Hokies are in the exact opposite situation, outperforming their expectations by a touchdown (15.5 actual, 8.7 expected).

It’s clear where the Irish need to improve their passing game to take the next step. Despite this, the Irish have the rushing attack and defense to be extremely formidable in the ACC, and with some improvements in the pass game this team is right where it needs to be.