The Notre Dame Fighting Irish are currently ranked 8th in the AP poll. They had a 10-3 season last year, but went 1-3 against quality opponents. They won their bowl game against LSU which isn’t really a litmus test for how good a team will be the following year.
This year, their offense returns 6 starters including starting QB Brandon Wimbush. However, Wimbush finished last year on the bench while back up Ian Brook led the Irish over LSU.
After two games, Notre Dame’s S&P+ ranking is 17, but their offensive ranking is 77 (sad!). They have 716 yards of total offense (just over 5 yards per play), six touchdowns, four interceptions, and no fumbles.
The trend for this offense has been down since the second half of the Michigan game.
Some Notre Dame red flags:— A David Hale joint (@DavidHaleESPN) September 9, 2018
* 17 TFLs allowed, 116th nationally
* After Wimbush’s 1st 4 drives of the year: 21-of-42 (50%) for 329 yds, 0 TD, 4 INT and just 5 rush yards.
* 3 of 6 TDs came on 1st drive of a half. Other 21 drives = 3 TDs, 3 TOs, 7 3&punts.
Wimbush is the starter, and against Michigan was 12 for 22 with one touchdown and a pick. Against Ball State, he was 17 for 31 for 297 with three INTs. In total, he has been sacked six times.
For being an offensive mind, Kelly has not had an elite QB at ND, and it appears Wimbush isn’t progressing the way he should. Per David Hale, half of their TD’s have come on the first drive of a half, which indicates a scripted series. Maybe Wimbush and Kelly need more preparation. His three INTs against Ball State indicates he just might not be the best passer, especially as series progress. His completion rating drops with each successive down, from 75% on 1st, 55% on 2nd, and 33% 3rd.
The Irish are throwing the ball less than 40% of the time, but have distributed it well to seven different targets. Miles Boykin, a 6’1” 227lbs Jr, has seven receptions, and oddly five have come in the third quarter. He also is the primary target on first down, with five of his receptions coming at the beginning of a new set of downs, netting him 110 of his 147 yards. He also has made three receptions for 28, 26, and 20 yards each.
Chris Finke, the 5’10” Senior is the recipient of the only passing touchdown of the first two games. It was a 43 yarder against Michigan in the first quarter, just past mid field. It was also on first down.
Chase Claypool is a 6’4” Junior and has pulled in six receptions for 83 yards with a long of 23 yards. Most of his targets have come in the first half and in the middle of the field. He, too, has caught most of his passes (3) on first down. What makes him unique is he has had more passes thrown his way on third and fourth down than anyone else. His large frame and catch radius makes him a solid safety valve for Wimbush.
Jafar Armstrong has seen the most action at RB because the Irish lost their top two from last year, and projected starter (and home run threat) Dexter Williams is serving a four game suspension for an off season arrest. Armstrong has caught five passes, three of which coming on second and long.
He has also had 28 carries for 101 yards and three TD’s including two against Michigan. He is most often used in Notre Dame’s own territory, especially inside of their 40, with 14 carries. His longest run came in the middle of the field between the 40’s, where ND is most likely to pass, and he is most effective in the Red Zone with an average of 4.4 ypc and three TD’s.
The other feature back for the Irish is Tony Jones Jr. He has run for 106 yards on 22 carries with two touchdown’s. He is 5’11” 220lbs and is used run first situations. He gets most of his carries (21) on first and second down. He has longs of 31 and 18 yards between the 40’s and in the Red Zone, respectively.
The running game accounts for five of the six offensive touchdowns, but it averages only 2.4 ypc. Remove longs of 42, 31, and 22, and the rushing attack averages 1.8 ypc.
The only offensive lineman under 6’5” is 6’3” center Sam Mustipher. He is the only other senior on the front five besides LG Alex Bars. The rest of the squad are sophomores. They lost their OL coach to the Chicago Bears, and it shows. Between the moderate experience (65 starts) and a new coach, the OL is producing a rushing game of only an anemic 2.4 ypc and 17 TFL, and Wimbush has been sacked six times.
They are run first with 88 attempts to 53 passing. When they pass, it tends to be in the middle of the field for chunk plays, this being the place where an interception is least likely to hurt by preventing a TD or turning into a pick six.
Kelly’s offense plays it conservatively with a running game to set up the pass. It seems counter intuitive to his MO, but their 24 ppg doesn’t scream prolific. The biggest yardage plays come from the passing game, usually in the middle of the field where the WR can run with it after. And the scoring plays come from the rushing attack breaking something long.
If the Irish find success, it will be on first down, where they can attack the defense. Once they fall behind the chains, Wimbush is not good enough to pull them out, and their OL is not strong enough to move the line of scrimmage.