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Drive Charting: The Best Defense In The Nation

Nov 14, 2012, 2:36 PM EST


The Irish are 10-0 after defeating Boston College last Saturday, and both the offense and defense made solid contributions in the game. Notre Dame’s offense scored a touchdown on three of its first four possessions, but methodical drives by both teams kept the overall drive count in the game low. The defense kept the Eagles out of the end zone all night, and recorded four sacks, a fumble, and an interception.

The story of the season has been defensive dominance, as we have documented in our Drive Charting posts all year long. The chart above illustrates one of Notre Dame’s most remarkable defensive stats, preventing opponents from driving the length of the field to the end zone. On 93 opponent drives started at or inside the opponent’s 40-yard line, the Irish have given up one touchdown. That 3-play, 75-yard scoring drive by Navy occurred on the sixth opponent possession of the year. Notre Dame hasn’t given up a 60-plus yard touchdown drive in 87 straight opportunities since.

How impressive is this particular stat? Consider the following:

  • On average, FBS teams have given up 21 touchdowns apiece on drives started at or inside the opponent’s 40-yard line. The second-best teams by this measure so far in 2012 are two Irish opponents, BYU and Michigan, who have given up eight 60-plus yard touchdowns apiece. (The Irish offense actually recorded two of those eight against BYU).
  • Notre Dame has given up a total of only 46 points on these drives (one touchdown and 13 field goals). That total is fewest in the country by a wide margin. BYU ranks second having given up 71 points on drives started at or inside the opponent’s 40-yard line, followed by Rutgers (73), Alabama (80), and Florida State (84).
  • The Irish are giving up an average of only 0.49 points per drive started at or inside the opponent’s 40-yard line. That’s the best mark this year, and from 2007 to present, only the 2011 Alabama national champions recorded a better mark (0.41 points per drive).

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.

  1. Travis Normand - Nov 14, 2012 at 4:03 PM

    Reblogged this on OnePointSafety and commented:
    by Travis Normand

    I found this over at (Strong and True, The Notre Dame Football Blog). While I am not making a case for Notre Dame to make the National Title game (at least not yet), I thought this was a great visual representation of how well the Irish defense has played this season. While some people will argue that Notre Dame hasn’t been very impressive overall, they cannot argue that their defense has been anything less than amazing against the competition it has played.

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