I'm not gonna sit here and troll ND because I think they're the best team ever. Because they're not. Not even close. Yeah, they're 4-0, and have beaten ranked Michigan State and Michigan. Two words about those teams: Big Ten. Meaning they're slightly, if not grossly, over-ranked and overrated. So don't take too much from those wins.
What I AM here to do today is to analyze how they got to 4-0. Statistical analysis, if you will. Numbers don't lie...as long as you don't misconstrue them as you are analyzing. They can be biased if you want them to be.
Let's start off by taking a look at their overall FBS rankings, both offense and defense (ESPN):
Pass yards: 85th (211.0)
Rush yards: 89th (140.3)
Points for: 86th (25.8)
Points against: 4th (9.0)
Pass yards: nothing special
Rush yards: more nothing special
Points for: decent, still nothing special
Points against: shutdown mode
So the basic stats show one thing and one thing only: teams don't score against them. Whether that's can't (ND's D is beast) or just don't (offenses need not apply) is still unknown. All the other stats are fair to middling as they don't score in bunches and don't chew up a lot of yardage. Let's go deeper into the defensive stats:
Team statistics leaders(CBS and ESPN):
Sacks: T-8th (14.0)
Interceptions: T-2nd (8.0)
Pass Defense: 23rd (178.8)
Rush Defense: 29th (112.5)
Interceptions: too early to tell. there are about 6 teams tied for 2nd so nobody has pulled away yet
Pass D: good, not great
Rush D: good, not great
The deeper stats show that although teams aren't scoring against them, their defense isn't really leading the league in anything or everything, meaning that the D is getting a little lucky when it comes to avoiding the opposing team scoring on them. Take last weekend's Michigan game: twice in the first half the Irish picked off MICH QB Denard Robinson in the end zone. Is that because the Irish's D was that good or was it just Denard being an idiot? Might be both. From the reactions I got from MICH fans, it was more of the latter, but they're always entitled to their opinions.
Final reactions: 4 words: "Regression to the Mean". What that means is that the Irish are playing above their stat level, and that in the future their record will fall back to their playing level. This phrase is mostly used in baseball, but it really is appropriate here. Are the Irish National Title contenders? Not just "no", but "hell no". BCS bowl team? Probably not, although with the number of ranked teams on their schedule its not too far off if they keep winning. Bowl team? Definitely. I would say that a 7-4 record is about right. I see them losing to #8 Stanford and closing out the season with a loss to #13 USC, and I could definitely see losses next week to Miami (FL) and later to #16 Oklahoma.
By: Stephen Elsner