Looking Towards the Marshall Matchup
Week 2 of college football is up next and we’ve finally got some relevant (somewhat), current data to inform the analysis going into this weekend’s matchup. The Irish will be playing their home opener against Marshall on Saturday afternoon.
This game will mark the first time that ND’s football program meets up with the Marshall Thundering Herd. Throughout Marshall’s full history, it has forty-six seasons of NCAAF under its belt. The West Virginia based team had its inaugural season in 1962 and through 2022 it has an overall win percentage of 47%.
Marshall’s 2021 campaign didn’t contain a lot to write home about. Head coach Charlie Huff took the reins for his first season and the Herd ended the season at 7-6 (54%), including a New Orleans Bowl loss to the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. The 2021 season also marked Marshall’s last of a 17 seventeen year run as a member of Conference USA. ND will be meeting up with the program in their first season as a member of the Sun Belt conference who was slightly more competitive than Conference USA in 2021 (Sun Belt Win: 52%, CUSA Win: 47%). As a result, it’s likely that they’re going to continue experiencing some growing pains throughout their 2022 campaign. With the Sun Belt has been showing out a bit early on so far this season, though, a win against Marshall could turn out to have much bigger payouts further on down the line than most are currently anticipating.
Their performance in Week 1 doesn’t give us a really good read from an analytics perspective on what the Irish can expect. Marshall faced off against HBCU, Norfolk State and came out with a 55-3 victory. It was an incredibly lopsided game with Marshall racking up a total of 612 yards, compared with Norfolk State’s 114. It’s unlikely that their offense will have such a dominating performance this Saturday but last week’s data provides us with some bread crumbs to set some loose expectations.
Marshall’s Week 1 Offense
The Herd’s offensive unit ended up successfully completing 58% (7-12) of their 3rd down conversion attempts and their only turnover came via an interception thrown by their primary quarterback, Henry Colombi. Colombi split the game with two other passers and put on a very efficient show if nothing else, boasting a 92% completion rate on 26 attempts.
The rushing unit accounted for the bulk, close to 400 (58%), of the team’s overall yardage. Marshall’s two top running backs, Ethan Payne and Khalan Laborn, ended up posting comparable numbers. Payne tallied ten carries and 113 yards with Laborn having twelve carries and 102 yards. The two backs only accounted for 57% of Marshall’s total rushing yardage, though.
While the exchange of the Norfolk State defense in their season opener with an Irish defense coming off a pretty impressive performance against Ohio State will undoubtedly impact the Herd’s offensive strategy, we can likely expect to see most of their threats come on the ground.
Not too anyone’s surprise, I’m expecting this Saturday’s matchup, at least based on the numbers and some context sprinkled in, to be a relatively easy game for ND in which we’ll be able to get to see some other dimensions of the team in action (particularly on the offensive side of things).
Strength of Schedule Updates
Through Week 1, the Irish’s Strength of Schedule is looking pretty intact. With the exception of Boston College and Navy, all of our opponents are going into Week 2 without any losses. Of the ranked opponents going into Week 1, most have either held steady or improved.
Ohio State dropped to #3 following its victory against ND. Clemson also dropped a spot to #5, although we don’t really know how much of that should be attributed to their somewhat sketchy performance against Georgia Tech through the first 3 quarters or other shenanigans in the college football ecosystem. Although they don’t appear on our schedule this season, Michigan continues to make life complicated by skipping Clemson to #4 after a truly “earth shattering” victory against Colorado State. I think it’s much more likely that in the long run we are looking at some solid Strength of Schedule points coming by the way of having Ohio State and Clemson remain in the Top 5. Both USC and BYU made size-able jumps in the AP poll, leaping to #10 and #21, respectively.
Week 2 Matchup Look Fors
Week 2 should remain relatively quiet with regards to monitoring ND’s Strength of Schedule.
Biggest Game to Watch
BYU is going into Week 2 with a big boost in the AP polls but also facing off against a top 10 opponent in #9 Baylor. The outcomes of this matchup, as well as their Week 3 game against Oregon will have big impacts on their season as well as how they factor into the Irish’s Strength of Schedule conversation. A lot of folks are expecting Baylor to come out on top but I’m comfortable saying that the bulk of the ND fan base is really hoping for an upset.
Opponents Trending Downwards
Not to many folks surprise, Navy, UNC and Boston College are showing signs of being the weakest links. From the outset Navy had a relatively soft schedule and their Week 1 loss to Delaware doesn’t bode well for the future. UNC has two victories on the board but with the ACC shaping up to be a wildcard this season and the Tar Heels barely eking out a victory against Appalachian State, they’re most likely to be a big asterisk for ND come the end of the season. Navy has Memphis up next and UNC is facing Georgia State so we’ll see how things go. Boston College is entering Week 2 0-1, following a one point loss to Big Ten opponent Rutgers. The Eagles will be matching up with fellow ACC member Virginia Tech. Both teams lost their season openers and its likely that they’ll both be angling strongly for short term redemption as well as conference standings through the rest of the season so the game will likely be competitive but isn’t poised to bode well for ND’s Strength of Schedule conversation.
Shared Opponent Matchups
It’ll be a big week for shared opponents, with California and UNLV facing off as well as Stanford meeting up with USC. Based on the numbers, neither Cal or UNLV is expected to be a big feather in the Irish’s cap. Their role in the schedule overall will make the game worthy to keep an eye on, though. Both Stanford and USC will likely hold a bunch of weight in the Strength of Schedule conversations later on and if nothing else, it’ll be good to see this somewhat mysterious USC team get its first decent challenge of the season.
Quiet (Hopefully) Week for Strong Opponents
Ohio State and Clemson don’t have particularly competitive games coming up, with the teams playing Arkansas State and Furman, respectively. Fingers crossed, there will be nothing of consequence to come out of those two contests. Syracuse, who started out the season with the most ranked opponents on its schedule, is in a similar position. They’ll be facing UConn in Week 2 with most of their strongest opponents scattered through the second half of the season so no headlines for them in the short term is likely a good thing.
Cheers folks and Go Irish!