The whole “Week 0” concept of college football has always been tough for me to wrap my head around. Don’t get me wrong, Week 0 provides a much-needed fix that I’m extremely appreciative of. But for the teams who play during that pseudo opening weekend it makes analysis going into Week 1 much more complicated. In most cases, Week 0 teams will be playing Week 1 opponents who don’t have any game tape or data to analyze, excepting spring game stuff.
And that’s where we find ourselves going into Notre Dame’s Week 1 matchup against Tennessee State. There’s been a whole lot more controversy in the comments sections around this game than I honestly could’ve expected.
There’s the FCS angle, which I guess I get but also seems to be on the same playing field as Jumbotron-gate. And that’s a fiasco that years down the line most of us are probably asking ourselves “what the hell?”
The other angle, much more of a third rail, is the HBCU thing. I grew up in Louisiana, was and continue to be heavy into competitive marching bands at the high school and collegiate levels so I guess I come into this whole thing without having viewed HBCU football as an “inferior” product just existing within a different space of the college football ecosystem.
And if there’s one thing I learned from my preview of last season’s Marshall game, it’s to treat even underdog teams with a bit more respect this early in the season. I’m not saying that there’s any reason to worry about a repeat of last season’s mistakes given what we saw against Navy. But as the data guy, I just tend be on the more measured side with previews, in general.
So let’s see what the data has to show us about the Tennessee State Tigers, based on their 2022 outing.
Tennessee State finished their 2022 season 4-7 (36%). Their biggest win, in terms of point difference came against Bethune-Cookman and their biggest lost came at the hands of Middle Tennessee. They also found themselves shutout 0-42 in their matchup against Southeast Missouri State.
The Tigers had their highest offensive output in the season’s first game against Eastern Washington. From that point on, it was a cycle of ups and down ranging from 469 total yards against Tennessee Tech to 188 total yards against Eastern Illinois. Throughout the season, passing yards accounted for the larger portion of Tennessee State’s offensive output.
Their most balanced games were against Eastern Washington, Bethune-Cookman, Tennessee Tech, UT Martin and Texas A&M-Commerce. During the Southeast Missouri State shutout, 68% (310) of the team’s offensive output came on the ground with passing only accounting for 32% (149) yards.
The Tigers’ passing completion rate per game ranged from 78% on the high end to 34% on the low end. Their average yards per completion ranged from 9.5 yards on the high end to 4 on the low end.
Tennessee State’s rushing attempts per game varied pretty wildly, ranging from 54 down to 27. The same is true for avg. yards per rush attempt. They averaged 7.2 yards per attempt against Southeast Missouri State and hit a floor of 2.3 yards per attempt against Middle Tennessee.
During their 2022 campaign, the Tigers turned the ball over a total of 17 times. Thrown interceptions accounted for the majority (53%) of the team’s total turnovers.
This should be a game where Notre Dame can showcase the depth of its talent and playbook. Tennessee State is a team that’s going to be coming into South Bend with a notable size disadvantage as well as lack of real offensive identity. Similar to Navy from Week 0 but much more acute.
The Irish will more than likely walk away with a big win and I think that the size of that will largely depend on what strategic goals Marcus Freeman and company want to get out of this game heading into the meatier parts of the schedule.
Cheers and Go Irirsh!!