Category Archives: Notre Dame’s Faint Echoes

A box office smash

Georgia-Notre Dame was berry, berry good for CBS.

Even if not quite as good as you-know-what.

Compared to last year’s primetime SEC game on CBS, Alabama-LSU in week ten, overnights fell 7% from a 6.7. The 6.2 ranks sixth out of the past nine primetime SEC games on CBS (dating back to 2011). Each of the other eight pit LSU against Alabama.

There’s something about life (or, maybe, the lack thereof) in Tuscaloosa.

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Doctor, doctor, give me the news

Sometimes you don’t know you’re hurt and it takes the diagnosis of an alert teammate to save you.

Then again, sometimes you just cheat.

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Welcome South, Brother.

Looking forward to seeing you folks again.

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Potential chink in the armor?

If you’re indulging your inner Munson and looking for an area where there’s a decided schematic advantage in Notre Dame’s favor, Nathan Lawrence is here for you.

One of the very few situations wherein Notre Dame has a decided statistical advantage is on first downs. Not only has there been a large margin in the performance of these two units, the Fighting Celtic People have been a top-ten offense in first-down situations. Most of the the advantages ND has over UGA are in situations where both teams are, at best, average, 1st down SR is the only area where ND is excellent, and there is a significant gap between the two teams. One of the most worrying signs possible in the early stages of this game would be to see consistent success on first down. This would open up the playbook for Ian Book, ND’s senior QB. As more of a scrambler than a pure pocket passer, Book has shined when he can move in the pocket, keep his eyes upfield, and run against zone defenses. The unequivocally best way to put him that situation is for the ND offense to be successful on early downs. If we see that unfold on Saturday, particularly in the first frame of the game, that’s when we need to start worrying.

This is the answer to my question earlier in the week, about how can ND beat Georgia if the Dawgs’ ground game is clicking.  The Irish have to commit to winning a shootout, countering Georgia’s rushing success with their own ability to move the ball on early downs so that Ian Book can unleash his entire skill set on Georgia’s defense.  (A timely turnover or two wouldn’t hurt, either.)

That’s the only path I see for Brian Kelly’s team, because, just to beat that poor dead horse even more, they ain’t stopping Georgia’s running attack.  Just ask Nathan.

Screenshot_2019-09-20 What Advanced Stats Tell Us About UGA’s Matchup Against Notre Dame

First of all, let’s just look at UGA’s plot here. Holy s***. The dawgs are formidable on offense to this point in the year. When your radar plot on one side of the ball is basically a regular polygon, you’re doing everything right. There’s been a low-boil narrative developing across Kirby Smart’s career that he, to a fault, wants to “impose his will” or play “man ball.” This has manifested and is driven by many, many predictable offensive calls in short-yardage and goal-to-go situations.

This is the rare big game where Kirby’s natural, impose your will instinct is absolutely the correct strategy all night long.  Notre Dame has to go in doing what it can to keep up.  Georgia’s ability to handle Notre Dame’s offense on early downs will likely dictate the final margin tomorrow.

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Goin’ down the road, feelin’ bad

Some kind of omen here?

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UPDATE:

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Some personnel notes

If you aren’t that on top of Notre Dame’s roster, at least outside of Ian Book, here are a few things I’ve dug up for your attention.

First, from PFF:

Image

Georgia LT Andrew Thomas vs. Notre Dame’s Khalid Kareem and Julian Okwara

When Notre Dame heads down to Georgia, it will be the largest collection of draftable talent facing off in any game we’ve seen yet this season. The marquee matchup will be right along the line of scrimmage. Both Andrew Thomas and Julian Okwara look very likely to be first-round selections come next April, checking in at 10th and 17th on the PFF draft board, respectively. Kareem is more of a Day 2 guy, but that’s still a great litmus test for both him and Thomas. Okwara is one of the best players in the nation at converting speed-to-power with a prodigious combo of length and burst. Kareem is more of pure power player and even played defensive tackle early in his Notre Dame career. Thomas is currently the highest-graded tackle in the country and won’t face a better edge duo all season, and the Notre Dame duo won’t face a better tackle. This is tape scouts will be coming back to frequently next spring.

Notre Dame’s defensive front may be a little soft in the middle, but it’s got real talent on the outside.  I’m not so much concerned about how Thomas handles whoever is lined up on his side as I am at the other tackle and, perhaps more significantly, how the interior of Georgia’s line — I’m looking at you, Trey Hill — handles the inevitable stunts and twists I expect the Irish to utilize to try to get at Fromm.

Here’s another key matchup.

Notre Dame WR Chase Claypool vs. Georgia Secondary

The Georgia secondary is loaded with draftable talent. The safeties J.R. Reed and Richard LeCounte are the headliners after grading out exceptionally in 2018, but redshirt sophomore cornerback Eric Stokes could make his way up boards here soon as well. They’ll face a man who looks like an NFL wideout at 6-4, 230 pounds with good speed but has yet to produce like one until this season. Claypool was a basketball standout in high school yet that hasn’t translated as well in contested situations as we may have liked going 6-for-14 on those last season. The key here will be the play of both Claypool and Stokes at the line of scrimmage. Bigger receivers often lack the flexibility and quick to deal with good press corners, and Stokes has played the eighth-most snaps in press of any corner in the nation (64).

Well, remember that Georgia tends not to flip its cornerbacks to follow particular receivers, so it’s unlikely that Claypool finds himself matched up against Stokes all day.  In fact, I would expect Notre Dame to do what it can to exploit Claypool’s talent and size against the corner on the other side, who will either be a Tyson Campbell who is nursing an ankle injury, or Daniel and/or Stevenson.  In any event, you have to think Smart and Lanning are going to have to provide some safety help if Claypool proves to be too much for one DB to handle.

Jake Rowe has some more player details here.  I will say that I have a lot of respect for Ian Book’s game; he’s one of those scrappy running quarterbacks who seem to give Georgia defenses plenty of problems over the years.  Containment is going to be a huge deal for the defense tomorrow night.  I hope I’m not pulling out my hair watching that breakdown constantly.

Book’s completion percentage hasn’t been as great as I expect Brian Kelly would like it to be, but he hasn’t thrown an interception in Notre Dame’s two games and he absolutely ripped New Mexico’s pass defense apart.  He’s also averaging better than 5.5 yards per rush and has two running TDs to his credit.  A real threat, in other words.

If you want more, Rowe also has a unit group comparison posted here.

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“I knew the Georgia fan base was for real.”

One of the unalloyed joys of this week is reliving the pleasure of my trip to South Bend in 2017.  I’ve come across several articles that have made it clear what an impact our fan base had on the players in that game.

Dennis Dodd:

The 2017 game in South Bend, Indiana, was a launching point of sorts for both schools. Smart was in his second season. Georgia squeezed out a 20-19 win that was significant because SEC schools seldom challenge themselves with such true road nonconference games outside the Deep South.

“I most definitely remember the fans,” Georgia defensive back J.R. Reed said. “Being in that stadium and seeing that sea of red made me think it was a home game. I knew the Georgia fan base was for real.”

There were an estimated 30,000 Dawgs at Notre Dame Stadium that night.

SI.com:

Georgia players didn’t know what to expect before they arrived. What would the environment be like? The fans? Bellamy remembers a “fear of the unknown” because they’d never played Notre Dame and only heard about the school in a mystical sense and from watching old games on ESPN Classic.

But by this point in their careers, Bellamy and his fellow seniors had played in some intimidating places. Tennessee twice, Florida twice. Then they ran out of the Notre Dame Stadium tunnel and saw…Bulldogs fans. It put the team at ease.

“It was like a home game,” Bellamy says.

“We were pissed off,” McGlinchey says.

We really were awesome, weren’t we?

There will be far less than 30,000 visitors in the stands tomorrow night, but I do hope we show some legit Southern hospitality to those Irish fans who do brave the trip.  I know I’m repeating myself here, but I was so impressed with how gracious everyone was in South Bend, before and after the game, despite their obvious disappointment that so many of their ticket holders sold their seats to invaders wearing red and black.

These aren’t Tech fans, so reciprocate if you get the chance, Georgia folks.  It’s how your mommas raised you.  (Or should have, anyway.)

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Today, in something’s gotta give

You know what’s coming next, right?

Notre Dame is fourth nationally in red zone touchdown percentage, converting seven of eight opportunities.

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The difference between “being familiar with” and “being successful in”

Holy crap.  This isn’t just bad; it’s spectacularly bad.

That’s so horrendous it may have bludgeoned regression to the mean to death.

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UPDATE:  On the other hand…

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It’s a big game, part one.

Dan Wolken:

Jack Bauerle is the longest-tenured coach at the University of Georgia, his memory of great football moments in Athens stretching to 1970 when he enrolled as a varsity swimmer. He’s as good a person as any to ask how big of a deal it is that Notre Dame is coming to Georgia for the first time.

“Very seldom have I seen a buzz like this for any game,” said Bauerle, who has coached Georgia to seven team NCAA championships in women’s swimming. “Maybe 1976 was something like this when Alabama came in and they were undefeated and the town didn’t sleep on Friday or Saturday night. That sort of reminds me of what’s going on here.”

Or you can ask Loran Smith, the semi-official historian of Georgia athletics who was the longtime sideline reporter for football broadcasts and still serves in a variety of roles around the athletic department. He’ll take you back further, to 1929 when powerhouse Yale made a rare trip out of the Northeast to play the first game in newly-built Sanford Stadium. Or maybe to 1942 against No. 2-ranked Georgia Tech in the game that launched Georgia to its first Rose Bowl.

“It’s just something people feel like is uniquely special – Notre Dame coming to ‘The Hedges,’ ” Smith said. “Athens is always wrapped up in college football, but you’ve got Thursday’s edge on Monday this week.”

What makes a particular game between the hedges a big game?  I can’t say it’s necessarily the stakes.  This Saturday, if Georgia loses — perish the thought, I know — it hardly strikes a death knell on Georgia’s season, ultimately, as the Dawgs could go on to run the rest of the regular season table and find themselves back in the CFP as the SEC champ.  Notre Dame’s path after a loss may be a little rockier, but don’t forget the Irish did a good job of clawing back into the national title picture in 2017 after losing to Georgia at home.

Nah, what makes a big game a big game is us.  Our excitement.  Our expectations.

Something we discussed briefly in that Chapel Bell Curve podcast I mentioned was where this week’s game fits in the pantheon of big games we’ve seen at Sanford Stadium.  A few I could think of when the anticipation seemed enormous:

  • 2014 Clemson
  • 2013 LSU
  • 2008 Alabama
  • 2007 Auburn
  • 2004 LSU
  • 1997 Auburn
  • 1992 Tennessee
  • 1983 Auburn
  • 1980 South Carolina

(Georgia’s record in those games:  5-4.  But I digress.)

Just curious what you think of that list and where you think this week’s game measures up.

One editorial comment I’ll make is that I know Notre Dame plays in a lot of hyped-up regular season games, but if Saturday night’s crowd brings the same level of energy that fourth quarter crowd in the LSU game brought, the Irish won’t know what hit ’em.

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