A BCSCG statistical snippet: Why Notre Dame's Rushing Defense ranking is misleading..

uafan4life

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I'm going to do a full BCSCG Preview / Statistical Differential Analysis later on but here is one statistical snippet that points toward one of Notre Dame's strengths not being as strong as it appears. As of now Notre Dame's Rushing Defense is ranked 4th in the Country. Of course, Alabama's Rushing Defense is ranked 1st in the Country. That ranking, though, is based upon Rushing Yards per Game given up. Looking at it a little closer, though, yields some interesting results.

[NOTE: Most of the stats quoted here regarding Alabama's Defense exclude the game against Western Carolina. This, of course, actually works against Alabama by taking away a "padding the stats" game. :) ]

First, on the very face of that ranking, there is a significant difference between that #1 and #4 ranking. Alabama is allowing 79.77 rushing yards per game while Notre Dame is allowing 92.42 rushing yards per game, for a difference of 12.65 yards per game. That may not sound like much but it's a fairly significant difference. While that difference puts the Irish only 3 spots behind Bama, that difference accounts for 7 spots behind the Irish and 12 spots behind the #20 ranked rushing defense.

Second, the Irish have been run on - as in number of rushing attempts - less often than anyone else in the Country, defending 29.25 rushing attempts per game. Compare that with Alabama - which is 8th in the Country in that particular stat at defending only 32.38 rushing attempts per game - and the Irish have defended over 3 fewer rushing attempts per game than the Crimson Tide. Part of this is due to the ball-control offenses that both teams run, with both teams being in the Top 25 in the Country in Time of Possession. If Alabama had faced the same number of rushing attempts per game as Notre Dame that would have had the Crimson Tide allowing only 72.05 yards per game - over 20 yards per game less that the Irish allowed per game.

Third, and carrying over from the previous points, the Irish gave up significantly more yards per carry than did Alabama. In this stat the Irish rank 11th in the Country, still very respectable mind you, at allowing 3.16 yards per carry. Alabama ranks 1st in the Country in this stat, allowing only 2.46 yards per carry. Given the same number of carries in a game, the Irish are allowing over 20% more rushing yardage than Alabama.

Fourth, Notre Dame has faced offenses that are less efficient at running the ball than has Alabama. The offenses that the Irish have faced averaged netting 40% of their total offensive yardage production from rushing the football, compared to 42.1% for the offenses that Alabama faced. In addition, the "against everyone else" averages (season totals minus game against Alabama or Notre Dame) are slightly higher for the offenses Alabama faced in average yards per carry: 4.54 for Alabama and 4.43 for Notre Dame.

Fifth, Notre Dame has taken advantage of sacks and sack yardage to "pad" their rushing defense numbers. Notre Dame ranks 16th in the Country in Sacks per Game, at 2.75, as well as 16th in the Country in Sack Yardage per Game, at 19.4. Alabama, meanwhile, ranks 26th in the Country in Sacks per Game, at 2.54, and only 44th in the Country in Sack Yardage per Game, at 14.7. If the rushing stats in College were done the same as in the NFL (sacks counting against passing yardage, not rushing) then you would have Notre Dame giving up over 111.8 rushing yards per game at just over 4.2 yards per rush while Alabama would have given up under 88.5 rushing yards per game at under 3.2 yards per rush. That's a difference of over 23 yards per game and more than 1 whole yard per rush. This difference is seen directly against the lone common opponent that the Tide and Irish shared, Michigan, where the "positive" Yards per Rush the Wolverines gained against the Irish was 4.8 versus 2.8 against the Crimson Tide.

Sixth, you have to factor in that the most productive ground game the Irish played was Navy - who runs the ball over 80% of the time - which actually skews a bit the run/pass ratio of the offenses the Irish have faced towards the run. As good as Navy is in rushing the ball, though, they are about as one-dimensional as it gets. This allows the defense to "cheat" quite a bit, making their rushing attack easier to defend - especially when you have all off-season to prepare for their option attack.




All of these things added together point towards Notre Dame's Rushing Defense being much less of a dominating strength than many would have you believe. What does this mean for the BCS National Championship Game? Here are a few points to consider toward that end:

- Notre Dame hasn't faced an offense that runs the ball as efficiently as Alabama, which averages 5.6 Yards per Rush.
- Notre Dame hasn't faced an offense as efficient overall as Alabama, which averages 6.92 Yards per Play. (The closest was USC, which they faced without Barkley.)
- Notre Dame gave up over 140 yards rushing in 4 games this season to Navy, Michigan, Stanford, and Pittsburgh - teams averaging 5.38, 5.02, 4.44, and 3.58 Yards per Rush, respectively, against everyone besides Notre Dame on the season. (Alabama gave up 140+ rushing yards in 1 game, to Texas A&M which averaged 5.82 Yards per Rush against everyone else.)
- Notre Dame gave up 3.0 or more Yards per Rush in 7 games this season to Navy, Purdue, Michigan, Miami (Fl.), Stanford, Pittsburgh, and USC having given up over 4.0 Yards Per Rush twice, against Miami and Pittsburgh. (Alabama gave up 3.0 or more Yards per Rush only twice, to Texas A&M and Georgia and did not give up 4.0 Yards per Rush in any game.)

A quick glance at the stats/rankings - or a quick listen to most talking heads or fans - would leave you to believe that Alabama hitting that "magic" number of 150 Yards Rushing against Notre Dame would be a difficult feat. A closer look at the reasons behind Notre Dame's Rushing Defense number, however, makes that seem like much less of a daunting task.







[UPDATE:]
A post regarding the scoring match-ups, i.e. Alabama's Scoring Offense vs Notre Dame's Scoring Defense and Notre Dame's Scoring Offense vs Alabama's Scoring Defense, is posted here.
 
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B1GTide

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I have been looking at this matchup for about 6 weeks, and I really believe that if Alabama commits to the run the way it did against Georgia, you will have a lot of success. Notre Dame simply does not have the horses on the D-Line to slow you down and Lacy will punish their LBs and safeties.

Statistically Alabama's scoring defense is a little better. You allow 18.8 ppg fewer to your opponents than they score - ND allows 17.5 fewer.

Your offense is light years ahead of theirs, scoring 11.8 more ppg than your opponents allow - ND scores only 3.2 ppg more.

Again, as long as you stay close in the turnover battle, you win.
 

B1GTide

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BTW, in the Navy game, Navy was forced to give up on the run early. They threw 20 passes in that game, which explains why they didn't rack up more rushing yardage.
 

westide

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Thanks for the in-depth info. I watched the ND/BC game and I was underwhelmed. I am going to watch the ND/Pitt game next.
 

FriendlyIrish

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Thanks for the in-depth info. I watched the ND/BC game and I was underwhelmed. I am going to watch the ND/Pitt game next.
Watch Oklahoma.

When ND gets aggro, we struggle against the run. That's what happened against Pitt. We try and outsmart the D and get beat on screens and misdirections.
 

TideEngineer08

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Great analysis.

I truly believe this game comes down to Alabama's ability to protect the ball, as B1GTide said. I look back at LSU, Texas A&M, and Georgia and I find one thing in common about those games: Alabama's turnovers which took touchdowns off the board in each game. AJ McCarron and TJ Yeldon missing a handoff near the goal line against LSU. That would have put Alabama up 21-3 and essentially iced the game. AJ McCarron throwing an INT in the endzone on 4th down against A&M which would have been the game winner. And AJ McCarron throwing an INT in the end zone against Georgia which was early on in the game, but no less critical since the game was so close.

Take care of the ball, finish drives, and it's NC #15 for Alabama. Don't, and it will be the same kind of nail biter that LSU, A&M, and Georgia was.
 

crimsonaudio

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I have been looking at this matchup for about 6 weeks, and I really believe that if Alabama commits to the run the way it did against Georgia, you will have a lot of success. Notre Dame simply does not have the horses on the D-Line to slow you down and Lacy will punish their LBs and safeties.

Statistically Alabama's scoring defense is a little better. You allow 18.8 ppg fewer to your opponents than they score - ND allows 17.5 fewer.

Your offense is light years ahead of theirs, scoring 11.8 more ppg than your opponents allow - ND scores only 3.2 ppg more.

Again, as long as you stay close in the turnover battle, you win.
Nice job.

You may as well start saying 'we'. You know you want to. :biggrin:
 

deliveryman35

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Jul 26, 2003
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I have been looking at this matchup for about 6 weeks, and I really believe that if Alabama commits to the run the way it did against Georgia, you will have a lot of success. Notre Dame simply does not have the horses on the D-Line to slow you down and Lacy will punish their LBs and safeties.

Statistically Alabama's scoring defense is a little better. You allow 18.8 ppg fewer to your opponents than they score - ND allows 17.5 fewer.

Your offense is light years ahead of theirs, scoring 11.8 more ppg than your opponents allow - ND scores only 3.2 ppg more.

Again, as long as you stay close in the turnover battle, you win.
Didn't ND edge us out in scoring D?
 

B1GTide

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Didn't ND edge us out in scoring D?
That is a calculaton of points scored per game. I prefer to compare scoring defenses by looking at how many points teams allow vs ppg that their opponents score because not all scoring offenses are equal.
 

califbamafan

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The one thing to remember is that we haven't played our best game yet. It seems every year we have the perfect game where everything just seems to come together. we haven't had one of those games yet and we are overdue for one. I sure hope it happens in the championship game.
 

Just Win

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I'm going to do a full BCSCG Preview / Statistical Differential Analysis later on but here is one statistical snippet that points toward one of Notre Dame's strengths not being as strong as it appears. As of now Notre Dame's Rushing Defense is ranked 4th in the Country. Of course, Alabama's Rushing Defense is ranked 1st in the Country. That ranking, though, is based upon Rushing Yards per Game given up. Looking at it a little closer, though, yields some interesting results.

[NOTE: Most of the stats quoted here regarding Alabama's Defense exclude the game against Western Carolina. This, of course, actually works against Alabama by taking away a "padding the stats" game. :) ]

First, on the very face of that ranking, there is a significant difference between that #1 and #4 ranking. Alabama is allowing 79.77 rushing yards per game while Notre Dame is allowing 92.42 rushing yards per game, for a difference of 12.65 yards per game. That may not sound like much but it's a fairly significant difference. While that difference puts the Irish only 3 spots behind Bama, that difference accounts for 7 spots behind the Irish and 12 spots behind the #20 ranked rushing defense.

Second, the Irish have been run on - as in number of rushing attempts - less often than anyone else in the Country, defending 29.25 rushing attempts per game. Compare that with Alabama - which is 8th in the Country in that particular stat at defending only 32.38 rushing attempts per game - and the Irish have defended over 3 fewer rushing attempts per game than the Crimson Tide. Part of this is due to the ball-control offenses that both teams run, with both teams being in the Top 25 in the Country in Time of Possession. If Alabama had faced the same number of rushing attempts per game as Notre Dame that would have had the Crimson Tide allowing only 72.05 yards per game - over 20 yards per game less that the Irish allowed per game.

Third, and carrying over from the previous points, the Irish gave up significantly more yards per carry than did Alabama. In this stat the Irish rank 11th in the Country, still very respectable mind you, at allowing 3.16 yards per carry. Alabama ranks 1st in the Country in this stat, allowing only 2.46 yards per carry. Given the same number of carries in a game, the Irish are allowing over 20% more rushing yardage than Alabama.

Fourth, Notre Dame has faced offenses that are less efficient at running the ball than has Alabama. The offenses that the Irish have faced averaged netting 40% of their total offensive yardage production from rushing the football, compared to 42.1% for the offenses that Alabama faced. In addition, the "against everyone else" averages (season totals minus game against Alabama or Notre Dame) are slightly higher for the offenses Alabama faced in average yards per carry: 4.54 for Alabama and 4.43 for Notre Dame.

Fifth, Notre Dame has taken advantage of sacks and sack yardage to "pad" their rushing defense numbers. Notre Dame ranks 16th in the Country in Sacks per Game, at 2.75, as well as 16th in the Country in Sack Yardage per Game, at 19.4. Alabama, meanwhile, ranks 26th in the Country in Sacks per Game, at 2.54, and only 44th in the Country in Sack Yardage per Game, at 14.7. If the rushing stats in College were done the same as in the NFL (sacks counting against passing yardage, not rushing) then you would have Notre Dame giving up over 111.8 rushing yards per game at just over 4.2 yards per rush while Alabama would have given up under 88.5 rushing yards per game at under 3.2 yards per rush. That's a difference of over 23 yards per game and more than 1 whole yard per rush. This difference is seen directly against the lone common opponent that the Tide and Irish shared, Michigan, where the "positive" Yards per Rush the Wolverines gained against the Irish was 4.8 versus 2.8 against the Crimson Tide.

Sixth, you have to factor in that the most productive ground game the Irish played was Navy - who runs the ball over 80% of the time - which actually skews a bit the run/pass ratio of the offenses the Irish have faced towards the run. As good as Navy is in rushing the ball, though, they are about as one-dimensional as it gets. This allows the defense to "cheat" quite a bit, making their rushing attack easier to defend - especially when you have all off-season to prepare for their option attack.




All of these things added together point towards Notre Dame's Rushing Defense being much less of a dominating strength than many would have you believe. What does this mean for the BCS National Championship Game? Here are a few points to consider toward that end:

- Notre Dame hasn't faced an offense that runs the ball as efficiently as Alabama, which averages 5.6 Yards per Rush.
- Notre Dame hasn't faced an offense as efficient overall as Alabama, which averages 6.92 Yards per Play. (The closest was USC, which they faced without Barkley.)
- Notre Dame gave up over 140 yards rushing in 4 games this season to Navy, Michigan, Stanford, and Pittsburgh - teams averaging 5.38, 5.02, 4.44, and 3.58 Yards per Rush, respectively, against everyone besides Notre Dame on the season. (Alabama gave up 140+ rushing yards in 1 game, to Texas A&M which averaged 5.82 Yards per Rush against everyone else.)
- Notre Dame gave up 3.0 or more Yards per Rush in 7 games this season to Navy, Purdue, Michigan, Miami (Fl.), Stanford, Pittsburgh, and USC having given up over 4.0 Yards Per Rush twice, against Miami and Pittsburgh. (Alabama gave up 3.0 or more Yards per Rush only twice, to Texas A&M and Georgia and did not give up 4.0 Yards per Rush in any game.)

A quick glance at the stats/rankings - or a quick listen to most talking heads or fans - would leave you to believe that Alabama hitting that "magic" number of 150 Yards Rushing against Notre Dame would be a difficult feat. A closer look at the reasons behind Notre Dame's Rushing Defense number, however, makes that seem like much less of a daunting task.
That's so much info it makes my head spin. But I'll simplify it for everyone:

On January 7th, Alabama will likely give up about 75 yards rushing, while Notre Dame will likely give up about 300.
 

Just Win

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The one thing to remember is that we haven't played our best game yet. It seems every year we have the perfect game where everything just seems to come together. we haven't had one of those games yet and we are overdue for one. I sure hope it happens in the championship game.
Another thing to mention is that Saban is undefeated in National Championship games, and i just don't see that streak ending. I'd much rather be facing Notre Dame than Oregon, Kansas State, LSU, Texas A & M, or Stanford.
 

RollTide1224

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The one thing to remember is that we haven't played our best game yet. It seems every year we have the perfect game where everything just seems to come together. we haven't had one of those games yet and we are overdue for one. I sure hope it happens in the championship game.
To the op great info. I always enjoy your breakdowns.

I was at the Michigan game and it was pretty close to perfect until it got totally out of hand. I'll be fine if our two best games are the first and last of the season.
 

BigBama76

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Oct 26, 2011
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I don't think we'll have a problem running against ND if that's what we set out to do. What I think happened to us in the LSU and A&M games is our offense seemed to be more AJ or QB centric versus what we've historically done even before Saban arrived which is be run first and let the QB manage the game. That means we don't rely on great QB play but one that can make strategic pass plays when they're needed.

The second half against GA it seemed we went back to our real style of offense and it paid off, which is why AJ was able to connect with Cooper on the 45 yard TD that was a strategic play if I've ever seen one.
 

IH8Orange

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In every championship game in which Bama has participated since 2009, the offense has faced a defense that was highly touted and has run roughshod over them.

In the 2009 SEC Championship game, Florida's defense was ranked 1st nationally in total defense (233 ypg), passing defense (143 ypg), and scoring defense (9.8 ppg), and was ranked 6th in rushing defense (90 ypg). Bama gashed them, gaining 490 total yards (239 passing, 251 rushing) and scoring 32 points.

In the 2009 BCS Championship game, Texas' defense came in ranked first in rushing defense (62 ypg), third in total defense (251 ypg), 8th in scoring defense (15.2 ppg), and 18th in passing defense (189 ypg). Bama put two running backs over the 100 yard mark, gaining 205 net rushing yards (more than 3 times their average allowed) and scoring 4 TDs on the ground which fell one short of the total number of rushing TDs (5) allowed by Texas for the entire season.

In the 2011 BCS Championship game, LSU's defense was ranked second in total defense (251 ypg) and scoring defense (10.5 ppg), third in rushing defense (85 ypg), and ninth in pass defense (166 ypg). Bama came up 20 yards shy of rushing for double what LSU usually allows, McCarron threw for 234 yards... many of them right at LSU's famed "Honey Badger", and put twice as many points on the scoreboard as LSU averaged all season.

In the 2012 SEC Championship, Bama held the ball for almost 2/3 of the game, set a rushing record with 350 yards on the ground, and averaged 7.1 yards per play. Georgia's defense was not highly ranked primarily due to several bad games early in the season, but a mid-season course change had given them a lot of respect and they were considered one of the best defenses in the nation by the time of the game.

Bama seems to save its best for the big games with the most on the line. Notre Dame is just the latest in the line of highly-touted defenses that will attempt to stand firm and stop the machine. As confident as they appear to be, they can't avoid contemplating if they'll be the next to be pulled harshly from their pedestal and crushed mercilessly.