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Drive Charting: ND vs. Miami

Oct 8, 2012, 10:19 AM EDT

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Notre Dame crushed Miami at Soldier Field in Chicago on Saturday night to move to 5-0 on the year. The defense was dominant again, holding the Hurricanes to only three points, recording a third straight game in which the Irish kept its opponent out of the end zone entirely. The Irish offense was even more impressive, led by a punishing ground game that chewed up 376 yards rushing on 7.4 yards per attempt.

We track a stat called “Available Yards” at Football Outsiders, the yards earned by the offense divided by the total number of yards available based on starting field position. In other words, a team that starts a drive on its own 20-yard has 80 available yards, and if it drives to midfield before punting, the offense has earned 40 percent of available yards on the possession (30/80 = 0.40).  The best offenses average between 65 percent and 70 percent of available yards over the course of a season.

Notre Dame only led Miami 13-3 at halftime, but the offense earned 67.5 percent of available yards in the first half, well above its season average heading into the game. The Irish had four second half possessions and scored a touchdown on all four drives (100 percent of available yards), bringing its total for the game to 81.8 percent of available yards. Since the start of the 2002 season, only one Irish game had a higher percentage, a 38-14 victory over Navy in 2006 (83.1 percent). In fact, the first half available yards percentage was greater than the full game percentage Notre Dame recorded in all but six of its previous 129 games.

Perhaps even more impressively, Notre Dame recorded eight drives against Miami that covered at least 50 yards each, out of only nine possessions in the game. The Irish matched that total of eight 50+ yard drives only once in the previous decade, in a 38-34 victory over Stanford in 2005. In that game, however, Notre Dame had 15 total possessions. The combination of available yards rate and 50+ yard drive rate on Saturday dwarfs any Notre Dame offensive output since 2002, as illustrated in the chart above.

Notre Dame’s 4.56 points per drive was the fourth highest rate of the last decade. Four of the top-5 in that category have come in the last 13 games:

  • 4.92 points/drive in 59-33 win vs. Air Force in 2011
  • 4.67 points/drive in 42-21 win vs. Navy in 2005
  • 4.67 points/drive in 56-14 win vs. Navy in 2011
  • 4.56 points/drive in 41-3 win vs. Miami in 2012
  • 4.30 points/drive in 50-10 win vs. Navy in 2012

Brian Fremeau (’99) is a college football writer, stats analyst, and data visualization designer. His work regularly appears at ESPN Insider, ESPN the Magazine, Football Outsiders, and on his own site, BCF Toys. He develops and publishes numerous possession-based statistics including the Fremeau Efficiency Index (FEI), a college football rating system based on opponent-adjusted drive efficiency. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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