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It is Notre Dame Week!!

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Well its that time of year again...Hate week part one is officially here!

This year is an intriguing match-up and anything can happen in a rivalry game...

These are my preliminary thoughts...

We have an ND team that appears to be better than the past few seasons. Offensively, QB Jimmy Clausen seams to be much better at running the offense than when we saw him last season though he is missing one of his best targets in Michael Floyd. The running game seems better as well but not by much and the ND O line looks like they have finally started to live up to some of their potential giving up fewer sacks so far this season than last season. But, they still appear to be slow and that will be telling when SC gets the speed rush going....it could be a long day.

From what I have seen, Clausen runs two types of plays...the Screen and the Bomb but if Clausen is pressured he either throws a bad pass or he throws it out of bounds. He is not as mobile as Terrelle Pryor or Jake Locker so you you know SC is going to be tracking him all game. The Notre Dame offense has not seen a defense like USC's at all this season. All the teams that Notre Dame have beat have losing records and the their one loss came against Michigan who has a winning record. SC has not given up a passing touchdown this season so do the Math...

On defense they have made some plays, most notably their goal line stands against UW but a lot of that had to do with Steve Sarkisian trying to show off his manhood instead of going for the easy points or simply running something different other than the QB sneak straight up the middle. Their D line seems to be the weakest part of the chain. Their linebackers are good as they have Manti Te'o starting but he is still adjusting. Their secondary is very good led by McCarthy...he seems to everywhere on the field making plays.

So, lets take a quick a look at my least favorite thing....STATS!

When Notre Dame is on offense...

#60 Rushing Offense against #5 Rushing Defense
#8 Passing Offense against #25 Passing Defense
#10 Total Offense against #6 Total Defense
#27 Scoring Offense against #4 Scoring Defense
#62 Sacks Allowed against #1 Sacks
#1 Passing Effeciency against #8 Passing Efficiency Defense

When USC is on offense...

#17 Rushing Offense against #68 Rushing Defense
#57 Passing Offense against #110 Passing Defense
#22 Total Offense against #100 Total Defense
#53 Scoring Offense against #59 Scoring Defense
#32 Sacks Allowed against #68 Sacks taken
#49 Passing Efficiency against #80 Passing Efficiency Defense

Lies, Damn Lies and Stats!

Because this is a big rivalry game I tend not to really give these types of numbers much credit but they do give us a glimpse of some of what we will see on Saturday.

Our friends over at Her Loyal Sons asks...Has the ND Pass Defense Improved? These guys put together some interesting stats on the ND pass defense and how they have fared so far this season...

We learned early on at Michigan that our secondary struggled, especially against a mobile quarterback, and most especially against middle yardage passing plays underneath. It seemed like every new/young/inexperienced QB turned into a world-beater against ND.

But how did ND’s D compare to our competitors’ competition? And have we gotten better? Let’s take a look.

While conversion rates and yards per catch are good metrics for this, I just went with total passing yards to make it simple.

Here’s how our competition thus far fared in passing yards (total yards per game) vs. ND and vs. their Non-ND Competition.

Vs. ND Vs. Non-ND Comp %Diff

Nevada 149yds 202 -26%
Michigan 240 164 47%
MSU 354 279 27%
Purdue 289 247 17%
Washington 281 251 12%

Average 263 228 15%

As you can see, ND started off great against Nevada, holding them to 26% fewer passing yards than they hauled in against the rest of their schedule to date. But that’s where ND went bad. We made Tate look WAY better than he is, allowing him to put up 240 yards – 47% more than the rest of their schedule has given up.

The absolute yardage yield has gotten worse from there, as ND yielded the world to MSU, and almost 300 yards to Purdue and Washington. BUT, relatively speaking, we’ve been improving. Because while those are ugly yardage totals, we’ve been closing the gap vs. Non-ND competition – Washington still put up a lot of yards, but only 12% more against ND than they have against the rest of their competition.

That is telling...

Remember, ND has faced offenses that aren't ranked very high if at all so while they have had some dramatic wins it has been against some very sub par talent.

Make sure you check out HLS through out the week as they always have some good write-ups.

My biggest issue or concern with SC will their red zone offense. We have seen them struggle more than a few times this season and if SC is short-and-goal ND will emboldened to pin their ears back and dig in like we saw them do against UW.

Also the weather and how the grass is will play a factor as well.

Of course because this is a rivalry game ND will be up for the game and they will lay out of their minds in the first half the question will be what happens once the adjustments are made? Sooner or later you have to rely on your talent and not emotion.

We will have more throughout the week