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Notre Dame Football: W.I.N. (What’s Important Now) — “13th Data Point” Week

Notre Dame’s pre-CFP/Bowl season is complete after crushing Stanford, but plenty of other teams will add an additional data point to their resumes this weekend — let’s discuss!!!

*groggily wakes up, checks the clock, and realizes how late he overslept*

Oh Goddamnit! I knew after the holiday weekend I was going to be too tired to stay up until my normal bedtime on Sunday night!

*frantically attempts to comb hair and put on a polo to go with the gym shorts he slept in*

But noooo, I had to watch that Harry Potter quiz show, and watch some Sunday Night Football, and just mess around on Twitter and whatnot until midnight. I’m such an IDIOT!!

Okay, welp, hopefully I look almost presentable — doesn’t matter now, it’s time to start the meeting...I’m so pissed at myself, ughhh today is the worst.

*clicks “Join Call” button while forcing a tired-looking frown into a hopeful Monday grin*

Helloooooooooo team!! How’s everyone doing on this beautiful Monday? Did you all have a nice Thanksgiving with family and friends?

That’s great to hear! Yep, I went home to Indianapolis — got to eat lots of great food, celebrate my godson’s was really nice. Haha yep, you know it, Dan!

Okay, well let’s jump right into it, because we’ve got a decent amount to cover and I believe some of you have to jump early for another call, right? Okay, got it. Let’s do this.

Can you all see my screen?

Excellent — well folks, it’s the 13th Data Point week, which means we get to discuss what happened last week and then look ahead to a week where we don’t really have much to do, as we mostly wait for the process to play out with some of our competitors.

To start, here’s the agenda — same as always...

And I really can probably delete these next two slides from the deck...but I’ll just lazily leave them in for now, just for your reference.

Alrighty, so let’s talk about what happened last week against the Stanford Cardinal — truly a sad opponent with a sad stadium filled nearly 1/16 of the way with sad fans.

Similar to the last few weeks, it was mostly a positive weekend for our Irish, what with the whole 31-point road win and everything. Michael Mayer had himself one helluva game, reeling in 9 catches for 105 yards to earn him the single-season receptions record for Notre Dame tight ends. Pretty awesome thing to do at a program with such a rich and wildly talented history of tight ends, amiright? And as a sophomore, no less!

Oh, Mr. Mayer also managed to bulldoze one of his constituents so violently that the referees initially threw a flag, because it just seemed like something illegal must have happened. Instead, it was just an outright mauling of an unlucky Cardinal defender.

Speaking of making history at a position with plenty of tradition and talent over the years, Bellyman (74 rushing yards, 2 rushing TDs, 2 receptions, 20 receiving yards) managed to do something in his second season as the starting running back that only 4 other guys have ever done at Notre Dame.

Not sure if you’ve heard of any of those guys, but that seems like a pretty awesome accomplishment that came to fruition on Saturday night, and pretty distinguished company for our favorite Master of the Midriff. Bellyman is, as we already knew, a Goddamn legend.

Jack Coan continued his nice run of tearing up bad defenses with his arm, throwing for 345 yards and 2 touchdowns while completing 74% of his passes. Obviously Mayer was a major beneficiary there, but Kevin Austin Jr. also managed to keep his run of really nice performances going. His 6 catches for 125 yards (including a 61-yarder) add to his 4 previous games for a nice 5-game stat line of 20 catches, 427 yards, and 3 touchdowns. Pretty solid finish to a roller coaster first full season for Austin.

NCAA Football: Notre Dame at Stanford Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

Other nice little positives from the offensive side of the ball included Braden Lenzy having a productive game (4 catches, 49 yards, 1 TD; 1 carry for 12 yards), George Takacs catching himself a touchdown, Tyler Buchner scampering for a 33-yard TD while picking up 56 yards on 3 carries, and Chris Tyree looking healthier each week and showing it vs. Stanford with 8.8 yards per carry on his 5 offensive touches.

Defensively, we should start with the Ademilola brothers, as the twin defensive linemen both had great games. Jayson collected 5 tackles and a sack on the evening, putting him at 3.5 sacks and 44 tackles for the season — which is pretty darn impressive from the defensive tackle position.

Meanwhile, Justin had 4 tackles and a sack himself, as well as a forced fumble and two fumble recoveries. Despite not being a starter, he finished the season as ND’s #2 guy in sacks with 5 on the year. It was an awesome day for the Ademilolas, and if either or both of them choose to return in 2022, it would be huge for next year’s front seven.

NCAA Football: Notre Dame at Stanford Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

Besides the twins, other solid defensive days were turned in by the non-Bo Bauer linebackers (J.D. Bertrand, Drew White, and Jack Kiser each had 5 tackles and combined for a couple TFL), Cam Hart (4 tackles, 2 TFL, 1 PD), and Clarence Lewis (3 tackles, 1 forced fumble).

Finally, the last positive to mention from last weekend was, of course, head coach Brian Kelly chugging red Gatorade out of the rivalry trophy while his team chanted around him — that was, quite simply, electric.

As expected, there weren’t a ton of negatives to report on from a 45-14 win on the road, so I’ll be a little nitpicky on some of these in terms of what I’ll call out.

Bo Bauer picked up a clear targeting penalty and got ejected, so that was obviously not great. Luckily he committed the foul in the first half, and thus only had to miss the second half of a blowout of the Cardinal. Still, the Irish don’t have a ton of depth at linebacker, so going forward Bauer and the crew need to be careful.

Jack Coan attempted to force a throw into a tight window on the first drive of the second half, which was intercepted by Stanford’s Jonathan McGill and returned 23 yards to set up a Stanford touchdown two plays later. Bellyman’s open-field tackle of McGill was the only thing that stopped it from being a pick-six.

NCAA Football: Notre Dame at Stanford Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

The defense was obviously pretty dominant overall, holding Stanford to just 14 points — with 7 set up by the aforementioned interception — and 227 total yards. However, there were a few moments the defense showed some sloppiness, mainly on a 6-play, 75-yard touchdown drive early in the 4th quarter. The Cardinal found some success with the slant route and Xavier Watts took a bad angle on one particular play, and so what could have been a 45-7 win ended up being 45-14. Nothing to be concerned about, but at the time, it was slightly annoying as the Irish tried to make another statement with a big blowout of a bad team.

Finally, the offensive line could certainly have performed better. Yes, the Irish ran for 4.9 yards per carry and 4 rushing touchdowns, so like the defensive performance, this is a bit of a stretch — but the Cardinal are one of the worst run defenses in the country this season, and so 168 total rushing yards is slightly disappointing. Allowing 2 sacks wasn’t exactly ideal against a bad pass rush as well, but again, nothing here to really be concerned about.

Okay, with all that said, let’s quickly take a gander at this week’s scorecard.

Really I’ve covered just about all of these, so I’ll just give a big shout-out to Michael, Bellyman, the ND team as a whole, the Ademilola family, Kevin, Brian, and myself for accomplishing big deliverables this weekend. Also, to Jeff and the ND defense, your action items are at yellow just for the nitpickiest of reasons, so I am quite confident you will have your circles at green by the end of the season.

Alrighty, it’s time to move on to our favorite slide — Team Members of the Week!!!

Big-time congrats to Michael Mayer, Kevin Austin, Bellyman, and Justin and Jayson Ademilola — you all played fantastic games, achieved big things, and completely earned the Chipotle gift cards heading to your inboxes now. Well done and I’m so happy we celebrate our successes here at Project W.I.N.!!!

Alright, now it’s time to look forward to this week — the 13th Data Point week. Let’s begin by quickly going over what exactly that means for the Irish as they sit at home and watch all the action unfold.

As you all probably know, ill-informed pundits and fans like to claim that teams that play in conference championship games this coming week will be adding a “13th data point” to their resumes, inherently making their resumes stronger than any teams like the Irish not playing in a conference title game.

Of course, this is just not true — anyone with half a brain can dive into the 12-game schedules of someone like Alabama or Georgia or Oklahoma State and find games against FCS opponents and some of the worst FBS teams in the country. And this isn’t to say that Notre Dame doesn’t play bad teams too — but clearly the “13th data point” is really the 12th or even sometimes 11th or 10th data point for these guys, considering the virtual bye weeks they have against the likes of Charleston Southern, Mercer, etc.

So if anyone tries to use that 13th data point argument to support another team for this year’s CFP over the Irish, what should we know to make sure we can easily dispute such claims?

Well, it’s pretty clear how to easily knock that argument down for most of these guys. Everyone ranked ahead of ND, besides Michigan, played an FCS team this season (Oklahoma State only beat their FCS opponent, Missouri State, by 7 points). And if you want to extend the conversation to teams ranked below any and all ND opponents in SP+, you can find at least one such opponent for all of them.

So, the 13th data point talking point is obviously ridiculous and easily debunked — be sure to call it out if and when you see it applied this week. And be sure to make it loud and clear how easy Alabama has had it — Mercer, New Mexico State, and Southern Miss all in one season??? Come on.

With that, let’s move on to What’s Important Now for the Irish during this 13th Data Point week of conference championship games.

It’s really that simple. Rest up, work on getting your injuries mended, eat some cheeseburgers, and pray/root for the Dawgs, Bears, Hawkeyes, and Cougars — two of those teams need to win in order for the Irish to feel good about sliding into the Top 4. One of them occurring makes it possible, but unlikely, considering the resumes of all other teams involved here. Three or more and maybe the Irish end up as the 2-seed, who knows???

Let’s just hope for a bunch of chaos and excitement next weekend, and see how it all plays out.

Okay, that’s everything I have for today you guys. Any questions or concerns??

Alright, I guess not. Per usual, I’ll send out the link to this deck after the call for you all to reference in your own time.

Thanks again for a great meeting, and remember that we won’t be meeting for the next few weeks due to off-site training, holidays, etc. We will reconvene sometime around the end of December, though, so please continue working on your action items and let me know if anything urgent comes up that needs the steering committee’s attention.

Bye for now!

*Clicks “End Call” button*

Cool, now time to chug about 10 cups of coffee with the audio from the BK chug video playing, so I can feel almost as powerful as he probably did in that moment. Let’s do this.