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CFB Data Review: Notre Dame 41, Central Michigan 17

The data story coming out of Notre Dame’s not so pretty, 41-17 win over Central Michigan.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 16 Central Michigan at Notre Dame Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Although a lot of the high-level stats show otherwise, that was an ugly game for Notre Dame football. I want to add one important note to that statement, though.

It was ugly by 2023 standards.

We’ve all seen the Irish play worse over the years but through the first 3 weeks of the 2023 campaign I daresay we’ve become spoiled. The college football season is a long one and every team is going to experience some ups and downs. And if we honestly look around at the 2023 landscape so far, things are looking spooky for a lot of “powerhouse” programs.

Notre Dame put up another decisive, 41-17 win but if you go back and watch the game it won’t look like so dominant. Some of the key flaws that haunted the team this week don’t appear to be systemic failures (like not having a quarterback) or necessarily new. But despite them, Marcus Freeman and company have been able to turn around victories and with the way things are shaping up throughout the ecosystem that’s all that’ll likely matter when it’s said and done.

So let’s dig through the data, which paints a pretty rosy picture, and just set our sights on the big Irish-Buckeye matchup next weekend.

Schedule Overview

Notre Dame is 4 – 0 going into Week 4 against Ohio State. The team hasn’t dropped below 40 points scored yet this season and even though when you replay the game it may seem different, the Chippewas didn’t put up the most points against us this season. NC State lays claim to that title through Week 3.

Scoring Summary

The 1st quarter was arguably some of the ugliest football we’ve seen the Irish play so far in 2023 and continues a trend of slow starts. While Notre Dame outscored Central Michigan 14 – 17 in the first quarter, it wasn’t ND’s prettiest offensive execution and most of us were flabbergasted at how competent the CMU offense looked against our defense.

The two teams tied 7 -7 in the 2nd quarter, leaving us with a 7-point game going into the half. Things didn’t get a ton prettier in the 2nd half, but the ND defense found some more fire and limited the Chippewas to 3 in the 3rd quarter and zero in the 4th quarter. Notre Dame’s offense didn’t catch a phenomenal second wind like we’ve gotten used to in the 2nd half but put up 20 to give enough breathing room for Steve Angeli to get some late snaps.

Big plays (75-yd passing TD to Tobias Merriweather and 76-yd passing TD to Chris Tyree) as well as Spencer Shrader’s golden leg play major roles in Notre Dame’s offensive production.

Team Comparisons - Ball Movement

While the overall stats show a rosy picture for the Irish’s ball movement, they are a bit misleading. While Notre Dame converted 42% of their first downs, the underlying data translates to converting 5 of 12 attempts. Compared with CMU’s 3 for 13. It’s not the end of the world and largely chalked up to 1st half mishaps but a lot was left on the table.

Team Comparisons - Offensive Advantages

Notre Dame bested Central Michigan in all of the key, offensive team comparisons. In terms of total yards, they beat out the Chippewas 578 – 268. The majority of those totally yards came via the air 342 – 236.

It wasn’t the best outing we’ve seen form Sam Hartman but he didn’t always have the best situations to work with. At times it seemed like CMU lineman turned his legs into corkscrews (which one of the announcers somehow connected to not having kneepads on) and the Chippewas secondary kinda just showed up to play. He hit a season low completion rate of 61.5% but when that still turns over 330 yards and 3 touchdowns, who am I to complain?

Team Comparisons - Extra Stats

Neither teams turned over the ball but the Irish’s penalty damage might as well have translated to 1 to 2 turnovers.

Penalties have been trending upwards this season and ND tallied up its worst stats this weekend. The Irish tallied up eight penalties for 82 yards when it was all said and done. Regardless of how the opponent performs in this category, no team can look back on penalties and penalty yard stats like that with anything but frustration.

Quarterback Comparisons

Receiving Details

In terms of total receiving yards, the wealth was pretty well spread. Chris Tyree, Tobias Merriweather, Jayden Thomas and Rico Flores Jr. led the charge. Tyree and Merriweather stood out with their long touchdown receptions and Holden Staes continues to emerge as a go-to touchdown target among the tight ends.

Rushing Details

The Irish’s overall running back room played important roles throughout the game but Audric Estime was the undisputed standout. He continues to get better, more confident and more fun to watch with each game and I’m loving it. His acceleration, ability to shed tackles and now added hurdling ability is the stuff that golden highlight reels are made of. He finished up with 176 yards on the ground, 20 carries for an average of 9 yards per carry, one touchdown and a longest run of 41 yards.

Final Thoughts

It wasn’t a pretty game but we’re also heading into the gauntlet of the season so one that I don’t think we have the luxury of lingering over. I’ve got faith in the program to get itself healthy and patch up things going into next week’s Ohio State matchup in South Bend. For now, that’s where my laser focus is.

Cheers and Go Irish!!