Freshman Nick Tausch has proven to be a reliable addition to the roster connecting on 10 of 11 field goal tries for the season (seven for eight in the red zone).The Totalitarian State Of AffairsAt a cursory glance it looks good, but red zone touchdown efficiency rears its ugly head again and the inflated numbers dont stack up well against elite teams.Due to problems embedding the tables, the numbers can be seen here At first glance, nearly everything looks good. The Irish rank in the top 10 in three out of the five categories and have produced PRs at a rate nearor above20 percent. Only two categories are the exception, points per game and touchdowns, and both are directly tied to the poor red zone touchdown efficiency outlined above.The 32.6 points per game have come by winning the second quarter where the Irish hold a 41-point edge in scoring (minus 4-point combined differential in the other three quarters). It seems that halftime adjustments are made by the opposition but are not countered by Weis and his staff.The caveat is competition.The gaudy numbers and high rankings above have come against many below average defenses.
A comparison to (arguably) the top two teams in the country shows that Weis offense is good, but not great.For example, while the Irish are averaging 470 yards per game, they have faced defenses that surrender almost 395 yards per contest. The positive PRs are a good sign of above average production and efficiency, but do not rank near the top of the country.Florida and Alabama have average total offense PRs of 0.62 and 0.39 respectively (compared to 0.21 for the Irish). This has come against teams with an average total defense rank of 59 for Florida and 73 for Alabama, both better than Notre Dame (average total defense rank of 82).So while Notre Dames offense is routinely performing at a level higher than their competition typically allows, it isnt on par with the dominant teams in the country who have generated much better PRs while playing better defensive competition.What About That Pound-It Running GameImprovement yes, dominant no.Due to problems embedding the tables, the numbers can be seen here.Its nice to see the emphasis of the off-season coaching hires show up in the box score. Last season the offensive line dramatically improved their pass protection. This season the running game is markedly better.Running backs coach Tony Alford has certainly upgraded his corps of backs who have shown excellent ball protection, better vision, and a much more decisive running style.
Offensive line coach and running game coordinator Frank Verducci has reduced the number of missed assignments by the front five as offensive linemen consistently get hat-on-hat at the line of scrimmage and at the second level.The result is an improved rushing attack that nearly meets the minimum production needed to consistently compete at an elite level. The running game will never be a first-strike weapon in Weis offense, but it doesnt need to be to have success.The Irish have proven they can run the ball when they need to (as indicated by the 75 percent short yardage third down conversion rate), and that may be the biggest differentiating aspect between this season and the previous two.Additionally, the Irish have averaged 148 yards per game and 4.1 yards per rushing attempt through the first five games. After showing a penchant for timid and soft running last season, both Allen and Hughes have looked much more imposing this year.The production on the ground does, however, come with an asterisk. Even with the improvement from 2007 and 2008 and the ability to convert short yardage situations on the ground, the Irish are far from dominant.The PRs for the rushing offense average out to nearly zero indicating the running game is just about what opposing defenses allow.