It’s been a pretty crazy week for me which is both a good and a bad.
The bad is mostly wrapped up in juggling a bunch of impending deadlines while also somehow not being able to recall at any given point and time what day of the week it is.
The good is that I haven’t had too much time to really fester in the aftermath of last week’s Stanford game. I guess you’ve got to take the small wins where you can get them.
To be honest, I’ve really got no expectations going into this Week 8 matchup against UNLV. Notre Dame’s football woes are well documented and I’m not even going to rehash them here, mostly because the data doesn’t give us any real read on what type of Irish team will show up to play. I’m not heartbroken by that but it’s also not how you want to feel about your alma mater.
Regardless of how the Irish show up, though, I do feel confident saying that just based on UNLV’s data this season, anything but a ND win (not even going to get gutsy about proclaiming wide margins) would be disastrous.
Prepping opponent data for these reviews can sometimes be a pretty routine process. Despite what folks may say about Notre Dame’s scheduling, all of the teams we play generally have data spreads that are comparable to most other big programs. UNLV is not one of those opponents and I spent most of this prep nerding out in the “wow this data is all over place” instead of the normal college football analyst space. Given the circumstances, it was a welcome change in the action. But also terrifying in the sense that regardless of the final outcome, I wholly expect the ND fandom to go a bit further off the rails. Anything less than a super clean victory (which I unfortunately just can’t predict) will draw even more of the current rumblings and a loss might turn into a full doomsday scenario on South Quad.
So let’s take a moment to sift through the data.
Misleading Scoring Summary
Just looking at scoring stats, one wouldn’t think that UNLV is in as precarious of a situation as it is. It’s outscored ND in total (but most teams have) and when you look at some of the details one could even make modest claims of parity. An important thing to consider, though, is that in the last two weekends of play UNLV has put up a stunning 14 total points (7 a piece) in losses to San Jose St. and Air Force. The final for the San Jose St. game was 40-7 and Air Force beat the Rebels 42-7. Notre Dame has had its issues but we haven’t hit that point.
UNLV’s Offensive Decline
Regarding total yards, UNLV had flashes of dominance in Weeks 1 and 3 but have been bottoming out since Week 4. They put up a season low of 179 total yards last weekend against Air Force.
Rebels’ Passing Troubles
A big contributor to the Rebels’ nosedive in offensive production can be attributed quarterback injuries. As of Wednesday evening, sophomore quarterback Doug Brumfield is still day-to-day in the concussion protocol. Even before the QB issues, though, the team’s passing yards trend was pretty flat and they only put up 118 in the Air Force game. If Brumfield doesn’t play, it’s likely that Cameron Friel will get the start.
Heavily Concentrated Rusher and Receiver Corps
UNLV’s rushing game hasn’t stepped up to fill many gaps in the offense, except when they put up 365 yards in Week 3 against North Texas (they won that battle of the titans 58-27). They’re averaging around 100 yards a game and put up a whopping 61 total rushing yards against Air Force.
Junior running back Aidan Robbins has accounted for the bulk of the Rebels’ meager rushing production. He’s averaging 4.7 yards on 125 carries through Week 7. Robbins has tallied up 59% (591) of UNLV’s total rushing yards.
Sophomore wide receiver Ricky White has carried the bulk of the team’s receiving game. He’s averaging 13.5 yard per reception on 33 receptions through Week 7 and has tallied up 31% (444) of the team’s receiving yards.
UNLV’s Lackluster Defense
The Rebels’ defense has not been doing particularly well either. They’ve consistently allowed upwards of 400 total yards from opponents through Week 7.
Most of Rebels’ defensive yards allowed have been through the air with the Air Force game being a true anomaly. When it was all said and done the UNLV defense only allowed 14 passing yards but let the Falcons run up 406 yards on the ground.
I’ll allow that the Air Force loss skews (potentially unreasonably) my perceptions of UNLV and expectations for how they will play this weekend a lot.
Unfortunately, I’m not sure what to expect on the field from ND either. I just hope for the sake of Notre Dame fans’ collective blood pressure that this game doesn’t go too bad.
Cheers and Go Irish!!