Friday, December 26, 2008

Notre Dame Baseball Alumni Mini-Update

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Notre Dame Football 2008
Issue 13: Hawaii

As an experiment, I crowdsourced my bowl preview, and two brave souls responsed. My own thoughts are at the end.

In the interest of time, and because they just flow better that way, I'm leaving everyone's previews intact.


Now, I don't study depth charts or stats to the degree that Kanka does, so don't expect in-depth position-by-position reviews out of me. I'm just a fired-up guy who enjoys a good game of football. And if I hadn't just read the most recent crowdsourced article on this site, I'd be tempted to accuse Kanka of being lazy, but I like being involved, I have some free time this weekend, and look: names in bold, integrated links -- I'm turning into a regular blogger!

I don't know anything about Hawaii's team, and I'm too lazy to look it up (see what happens when you crowdsource your articles to a group of equally lazy people?). I also don't have much to say about ND's team at this point that hasn't already been said. I just hope that Charlie isn't so focused on recruiting that he doesn't take the game seriously. Sure, the long-term health of the program is more important than a single bowl game, but I'm sick of hearing about how ND hasn't won a bowl game in 15 years, so it would be nice to get a postseason win.

Since I don't have anything intelligent to say, I'm going to do what all good football commentators do and start rambling on about intangibles and personal experience anecdotes.

This is going to be a tough environment for ND to play in. I stop short of calling it a "hostile" environment, because I'm not sure how hostile any place that has pretty girls handing out floral leis to everyone coming off an airplane can be. But seriously, this is far from a neutral location. It's essentially a home game for Hawaii, so expect to see a lot of whatever their colors are in the stands (again, too lazy to even look it up). It reminds me of the 2003 Gator Bowl in Jacksonville. ND played NC State, and the stadium was full of Wolfpack fans not only because of the location, but also because NC State secured their spot in the game far earlier than ND did, giving their fans a jump on buying tickets. I expect to see more of the same here.

They're also not bringing the band. From a dollars-and-cents point of view, I can see why, but if I were still in the band, I'd be pretty upset. The bowl trip is just as much a reward for the band as it is for the team. And as an ND fan, it's great to hear "the greatest of all university fight songs" at ND football games (even though we don't call it that outside of ND Stadium). The band provides (to quote someone from some movie) what the French call a certain... I don't know what.

If any of you are lucky enough to get to attend the game, here are some useful Hawaiian phrases:
Mele Kalikimaka: "Merry Christmas"
Mahalo: I thought this meant "Trash" because that's what's printed on the trash cans at this little Hawaiian place we go to lunch sometimes, but it actually means "Thanks"
Ho'opa i lalo: "Touchdown". Actually, I don't know if that's really true. I just looked up the words "touch" and "down" and stuck the resulting translations together. Use at your own risk.
Joi'aga: That doesn't really mean anything. I just accidentally set my coffee cup down on my keyboard. By the way, they supposedly have good coffee in Hawaii.
Aloha: Both "Hello" and "Goodbye". Who invented this silly language?

Kanka: if you can turn any bit of this into a semi-coherent article, I'll be downright amazed.

Go Irish, and Merry Christmas!


ND can absolutely win this game, but since it's a bowl game, who the hell knows if we'll show up. Hawaii definitely will, but they're not that good this year. Can we control the clock and avoid stupid turnovers? That will decide the game.

With nothing left to say, I'll just include the rant I emailed Kanka a short time ago:

"I hate the game on Christmas Eve. Absolutely hate it. I can't believe the university put its alumni and fans in such a weird spot. "Go to church, spend time with family, or watch the bowl game" is pretty much the message. So odd. I'm going to Michigan with Colleen and her family tomorrow morning, and her dad's big family get-together is tomorrow night. Clearly I must watch the game, but I'd rather not come off like a totally anti-social d-bag in front of many people I've not met and who will be traveling a far distance for our wedding. Absolutely horrendous decision."


This has the potential to be a sloppy game, as both teams have struggled with turnovers. Hawaii has thrown over 16 interceptions, but most of those have come from Inoke Funaki (INDEED). Funaki was replaced by Greg Alexander, who has a stellar 12 to 4 touchdown-to-interception ratio.

Hawaii uses a four receiver look almost exclusively, and Notre Dame has said will counter with the nickel for most of the game. While Sergio Brown and Harrison Smith have improved their pass coverage over the course of the year, I'd like to see Robert Blanton and/or Gary Gray play nickel/dime back, so all of Notre Dame's most talented corners can be on the field at the same time. Terrail Lambert is back for this one, so that will be a big help. (Lost in the shuffle of the 38-3 loss to USC was the fact that ND was playing without its two "starting" corners, Lambert and Darrin Walls.)

Hawaii distributes the ball pretty evenly, so everyone in the Irish pass defense will have to be on their toes at all times. But they have the talent to do it, and they also have the talent to blitz early and often against a team that is worst in the nation at allowing sacks. But ND also has to be alert for the occasional draw, something they struggled with against San Diego State in the opener.

The Warriors defense gets in the backfield a lot, led by end David Veikune. Hopefully, the Irish will keep extra blockers back to protect Jimmy Clausen. This essentially means taking the tight end and/or running back out of the passing game. But fortunately Michael Floyd will be back, so Hawaii's secondary won't be able to concentrate all their efforts on Golden Tate. Hopefully that extra protection and the dual threat of Floyd and Tate will help Clausen keep the ball away from Hawaii's ball-hawking safeties.

Look for a big game from everyone. Go Irish, beat Warriors.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Notre Dame-Hawaii By The Numbers

Vegas Odds

The line is starting to move on this one. Originally Hawaii was a 1.5 point favorite, but now they're anywhere between there and a 1.5 point underdog to the Irish. They're a saying that you automatically give the home team 3 points. Well, despite the fact that Notre Dame will be wearing the dark jerseys, the Warriors have the home field advantage in this one. Of course, I've also heard that Notre Dame automatically gets 3 points in their favor on the line due to their following. Those 3 points of course cancel out the three given to Hawaii for home field advantage.

Computer Rankings

Below are the six computer rankings used by the BCS, and Notre Dame and Hawaii's position in each. As you can see, it's very tight.
Notre DameHawaii
Anderson & Hester5763

But those aren't the only computer rankings out there. Jeff Sagarin also includes on his website (rather bitterly) another ranking, called his PREDICTOR, that relies heavily on margin of victory. In that, Notre Dame is 62nd and Hawaii 95th.

The Fremeau Efficiency Index, used by Football Outsiders and housed at BCS Toys, has Notre Dame at 47 and Hawaii at 101. In addition, BCF Toys is calling the game a lock, with an 88% degree of confidence that Notre Dame will win 30-10.

Stastical Trends

Finally, here's a quick-and-dirty regression analysis. For each game this season, I took Notre Dame's points for and against, and rushing, passing, and total yards for and against. Excel gave me the following coefficients:
Points For0.01
Points Against-0.03
Rushing For0.06
Rushing Against-0.07
Passing For0.06
Passing Against-0.07
Total For-0.06
Total Against0.07

Like I said, it's a very quick-and-dirty model. I'm not even sure if the variables I used are reliable predictors of wins and losses. Of course, the small sample size of 12 games is also an issue. But this is all something I can work on next year.

Anyways, plugging Hawaii's season averages into this model gives Notre Dame a 57% chance of winning.


If you're a fan of what the stat nerds have to say, this will be a close one, with a slight edge to Notre Dame. Still, there are many more factors to consider, and time permitting I'll cover those in my next preview. Go Irish!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

The National Lampoon Sports Minute (Or So)

The National Lampoon Sports Minute (Or So)
By Steve Hofstetter, Keith Alberstadt, Ryan Murphy, and Chris Strait

The New York Mets signed Angels reliever Francisco Rodriguez. Rodriguez said that while he had many offers on the table, this was the one that allowed him to be the only relief pitcher on the team.

The floundering Arena Football League delayed the release of their 2009 schedule for the third time. It's understandable, because it'd be embarrassing to release a blank piece of paper.

The NFL Players' Association is somehow challenging the four-game suspension the Giants handed to Plaxico Burress. The Players' Association is expected to win, mainly because they're armed.

The Atlanta Dream got the first pick in the WNBA draft. Unfortunately, they can not use it to draft fans.

And the poor economy is even affecting the NFL, who will be cutting 150 employees. We're hoping most of them will be the Detroit Lions.

For more of the Sports Minute (Or So), visit

The National Lampoon Sports Minute (Or So)
By Steve Hofstetter, Keith Alberstadt, Ryan Murphy, and Chris Strait

The Kings defeated the Lakers this week. It was the most surprising beating involving Los Angeles since Rodney King.

Joey Porter said he has a handgun at home in Miami. He said he even takes it with him when he goes to America.

The New York Mets traded Aaron Heilman for JJ Putz, marking the first time in history that a Putz was traded for a putz.

And the New York Yankees signed CC Sabathia to a $161 million, seven-year deal. Sabathia will wear his number 52, but on David Wells' old uniform. The pressure on Sabathia from Yankee fans will be tremendous. Luckily, Sabathia has the girth to withstand it.

For more of the Sports Minute (Or So), visit

The National Lampoon Sports Minute (Or So)
By Steve Hofstetter, Keith Alberstadt, Ryan Murphy, and Chris Strait

The Washington Nationals reportedly have made a huge offer for slugger Mark Teixera. But he doesn't know about it because it's hard to hear voices coming from the cellar.

The coaches of all three Heisman finalists said they hope that success doesn't come with negative baggage for the star players. Which is a nice way of saying that they hope the players don't get drafted by Detroit.

Pacman Jones may miss the rest of the year. Unless he finds a blinking power pellet before it's too late.

The New York Giants have refused to pay $1 million of Plaxico Burress's signing bonus. In other words, the bookkeeper put his ballpoint pen on "safety."

And former trainer Brian McNamee said there is no chance that Roger Clemens will get into the Hall of Fame. Unless they move the Hall from Cooperstown to Mindy McCready's pants.

For more of the Sports Minute (Or So), visit

The National Lampoon Sports Minute (Or So)
By Steve Hofstetter, Keith Alberstadt, Ryan Murphy, and Chris Strait

Plaxico Burress attended an event for a New York charity. The charity was the Giants new offense.

Oklahoma's Sam Bradford won the Heisman Trophy on Saturday. He said he hopes to use that stiff arm technique on the Detroit Lions when they try to draft him.

Newly acquired Francisco Rodriguez told the rest of the NL East that the Mets are the team to beat. That sound you hear is the rest of New York not holding their breath. The Mets are actually the team to beat, as proven by the Phillies the last two years.

And Sean Avery, who was suspended by the Dallas Stars, won't return to the team. Another team may pick him up, but only if they can call him "sloppy seconds."

For more of the Sports Minute (Or So), visit

The National Lampoon Sports Minute (Or So)
By Steve Hofstetter, Keith Alberstadt, Ryan Murphy, and Chris Strait

Rutgers athletic director Robert Mulcahy will step down. He wanted to announce it weeks ago, but he's been stuck in traffic on the New Jersey Turnpike.

The Arena Football League will shut down in 2009 to re-structure its business model. Terrell Owens complained that he wasn't included in the decision.

Iowa State coach Gene Chizik is taking the head coaching job at Auburn. His first order of business is to update his resume in case he doesn't beat Bama. Charles Barkley immediately criticized his alma mater for the hiring, saying that Auburn only hired Chizik because he's white. We're shocked, because this was the longest the state of Alabama has ever gone without being racist.

And the 46-year-old Jamie Moyer signed a two-year deal with the Philadelphia Phillies. When asked what he planned on wearing to the press conference, the aging hurler simply said, "depends."

For more of the Sports Minute (Or So), visit

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Buck's Hall

You may have seen the link in the top right of this blog, promoting what Buck O'Neil pictured as his last great legacy: a "Hall of Education" to complement the Negro Leagues Museum he helped build on the famous corner of 18th and Vine in Kansas City.

Now that hall is in trouble, thanks to some questionable politics surrounding the appointment of a new museum director. Joe Posnanski has more.

Oh, and don't forget to vote for Buck (and Joe Posnanski, if you wish) in this year's KankaNation hall of fame voting.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Notre Dame Football: Placing the Blame

This began as a lively discussion on the message board. I chopped up the discussion and presented the best quotes here. As you can see, the local readership is generally pro-Weis (if for no other reason than the lack of a suitable successor) and anti-Clausen.

Speaking of the message board, if you haven't been there before, why not stop by and say hi?

The Case For Charlie Weis

"Charlie brings a unique perspective to the position. Have you ever tried explaining to a non-Domer just how special ND is? It's nearly impossible. There's something about actually being there -- experiencing what it means to be part of the university family. As an alumnus, Charlie "gets it".

Suppose we find somebody new... what would they do differently? When Charlie was hired, he'd talk about flashing his 4 Super Bowl rings in front of prospective recruits, showing that he has what it takes to get them to "play on Sundays", and that's still legitimate. The other piece to the recruiting issue is the team's performance, and a coaching change isn't going to do anything (at least immediately) to change that." - Aflac

"I hear a lot of guff about how good or bad Weis is at his job. I hardly hear anything about how tough a job Weis has, either absolutely or relative to other teams with winning seasons.

Obviously, we should expect a great deal from our football coach. However, high expectations aren't the same as unreasonably high expectations. Where's the threshold...?" - Klondike

"The thing that gets me is that the media (and some fans) keep saying that Weis has only one win against ranked teams in the last 3 years. True, but that includes 2007, when they didn't beat anyone.

The important thing is that except in three cases (MSU, BC, USC), Notre Dame played their losses close to the very end. Unfortunately, young teams have a tendency to blow leads - that's nothing exclusive to this year's ND team. Now, next year when they're more experienced, they should be expected to win those games." - Kanka

"He's not Bob Davie complaining that we don't play more directional schools. He's not Ty Willingham, saying that 6-6 is good enough. He's not Urban Meyer, trying to cut deals to admit more academically questionable players. (As an aside, do you think the people who want Meyer now have forgotten about him saying that three years ago?)" - Kanka

"I think the fans are being short-sighted. If the season had gone the other way, beginning with disappointing losses and ending with maulings of Michigan, Purdue, and Washington, or if one or two of the losses had gone the other way, we wouldn't be hearing any of this talk. (Bear in mind, too, that ND's 38-3 loss to USC was only 3 points worse than OSU's.) Yes, we'd all like Notre Dame to compete for the national championship every year. But simply saying that (or yelling it, or typing it) doesn't make it possible." - Kanka

The Case Against Charlie Weis

"But at the same time, Gerry Faust "got it" so much that he went into the school's archives and found out that our true colors are gold and Madonna (light) blue. I'm sure Terry Brennan got it too. Heck, the people on this board get it, but I don't think any of us can lead the team to a National Championship." - Kanka

"I've never really liked Charlie. I think he is 20 times more cocky than Jimmy even though at least initially he backed that up. I think Charlie still sometimes thinks he's coaching a bunch of pros and if guys don't improve or decide to transfer or something, it's fine because he'll just go sign some experienced free agents in the off season to replace them. He basically doesn't care about the backups if they aren't freshmen. Then you have guys like DJ Hord and Richard Jackson transfer, George West, Floyd, and Parris all get hurt and you end up with 3 scholarship WRs for a game. Same thing with our TE situation. I know a ton of people who want him fired. I'm willing to give him another year mainly because there doesn't seem to be anyone better to replace him right now and once upon a time, it wasn't the Notre Dame way to fire a coach so quickly. He definitely needs to get a little humility though because right now he is not backing up his tough talk at all and it's making Notre Dame look stupid. There's a fine line between arrogance and confidence. Charlie is on the wrong side of that line. I'm really not sure how he recruits so well because if he came into my living room, I wouldn't be able to stand him. Maybe it works well because all the 5 star recruits are cocky as heck too and figure they will be the savior of ND football... then they get here and don't develop and end up looking like Jimmy Clausen. Charlie somehow needs to figure out how to develop talent because we do have talent, and I know they are working very hard, yet it is not showing on the field." - T

Firing Weis as a Business Decision

"Can ND afford to fire him? Of course. Even with his supposedly huge buyout, the university has the means to make it happen.

But who would replace him if they did?" - Aflac

"No question... it's Bush's fault.

I recommend a three-billion dollar bailout for ND Football. Of course, because of the Patsy T. Mink Equal Opportunity in Education Act we'll have to give another three billion dollars to the women's soccer team." - Klondike

"I'm sure the logistics of a coaching change play into a bit. The last few searches were ugly, and this team needs some stability." - Kanka

The Case For Jimmy Clausen

"He is definitely on the cocky side, but recently, I've started to think he's not quite as bad as he appears. I think he tries to be a good teammate and doesn't think he's above any of the other guys on the team. And just a side note, he would not be at a bar in a pink polo with a popped collar because he prefers to dress more hood, think baggy jeans, baseball hat cocked just so, etc... but he would have a blond or two hanging on his arms." - T

The Case Against Jimmy Clausen

"He had a rough year last year. I expected him to use the off-season to focus and improve, and he has to a point, but it's not enough. He still doesn't look like a Notre Dame quarterback, and at times he barely looks like a college-level QB. And when you look at the investment the university is making in him (conservatively, 5 years tuition + books + tutoring + etc = at least a quarter million), not to mention the 4 other QBs sitting on the bench, it adds up.

My problem is that I never liked Jimmy. From the signing ceremony where he rolled up to the College Football Hall of Fame in a stretch Hummer dressed like Joe Namath, I could tell that he just doesn't "get it". I thought that a little time under the dome would teach him what ND is all about, but he still has that cocky demeanor about him. At least he cut his hair. But he still looks like one of those jerks you see at a bar in a pink polo shirt with the collar popped and an aviation blonde hanging on his arm. " - Aflac

"I kind of wish Jimmy was more stereotypically German, but I'm not sure that would solve the problems that you guys are concerned with." - Klondike

"It seems like his ego is getting in his own way. That's not a big surprise there, and talking to a current student and people in adminitration confirms it. I'm not sure what the opposite of a self-fulfilling prophecy (if you expect everything to go wrong, it will) is, but that's Clausen's problem. He expects things to turn out OK, no matter what he does. "If I just keep scrambling backwards, eventually I'll find someone." "Rudolph's being triple-covered, but the play says to throw it to him, so I'll do that anyways."

Clausen has talent. The first half of the season showed that he probably has better touch on the deep pass than Quinn. But the playcalling in the last few games - all screens and dumpoffs over the middle - shows Weis's faith in Clausen's decision-making ability right now." - Kanka

"I've never really liked Jimmy either. He set himself up for a horrible situation, although now I'm thinking it's not all his fault. The people advising him are equally responsible for how he came off. I've been in a few classes with him and don't think he's very smart which is necessary for a QB. Maybe Charlie's offense is just too much for him. Between his looks and his social akwardness and lack of smarts, he comes off as a bit of an anti-Brady Quinn to me." - T

Goals and Standards for 2009

"This year has been one of constant "How did we get here?" moments.

My solutions:

1. Establish benchmarks for Charlie. For example
- Min. 7 wins this year.
- Team GPA >3.0
- You get the idea

2. Begin to develop Dane Crist. We have taken too many big losses on plays that require only some savvy form the QB. I would be hesitant to bench Jimmy at the start of the season. He does have quite a bit of experience. I am not opposed to phasing him out though. He doesn't seem to be the permanent solution.

3. Return to fundamentals. Blocking, tackling, discipline (read avoiding simple penalties), and more competition (for every spot on the field)." - Yonto

"I believe Weis is smart enough to surround himself with smart people. A majority of his coaching staff, including himself, is inexperienced. He brought in Tenuta to mentor Corwin Brown, and the defense improved. Now I think he needs to bring in an offensive guy. Yes, technically he already is the experienced offensive guy. But you can't mentor a new offensive coordinator AND mentor a new quarterbacks coach AND be a new head coach all at the same time. " - Kanka

"I'm very happy that Crist is waiting in the wings, and we should see an open competition before too long. I'm also happy that Crist was not inserted into the Syracuse game, as many fans in section 102 wanted. Of course, these were the same fans that didn't understand why Clausen wasn't throwing deep to Floyd on every play and were dreading Walker's every attempt. (If you, like them, weren't aware, Floyd was injured and Walker entered the game in the middle of a 12 for 13 streak.) Of course, I'll chalk some of those comments up to extra alcohol intake on a 19-degree day." - Kanka

"I went into this season without any expectations, because the team was still young. But now that "Weis's guys" will be experienced upperclassmen in 2009, if you want to raise the expectations, so be it." - Kanka

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Cleveland Indians Sabermetrics 101: DIPS and RAR

In the last installment, we discovered that all pitchers' BABIP tend to fall in the .290 to .310. It follows then that if we want to gauge a pitcher's talent level, we need to look at everything besides balls hit into play. "Everything else" consists of strikeouts, walks, and homeruns, generally considered the "three true outcomes." There are a number of stats that study the three true outcomes, and together they are referred to as defense-independent pitching statistics - DIPS.

Before I go into examples of DIPS, I need to define a few terms.

replacement level: This is a popular concept among statheads. A replacement level player is one that is easily available as a mid-season free agent signing or a AAA call-up. Indians fans saw many replacement level players make starts for the Indians last year, Matt Ginter for example.

Runs Above Replacement, RAR: If "replacement level" is the amount of production you can get out of a player off the scrap heap, you would expect your regular players to be able to perform above that level. For pitchers, this means comparing the number of runs a pitcher gave up over a certain number of innings and comparing it to the number of runs a replacement player would have given up over the same number of innings. This is a tally of runs "saved" compared to a replacement pitcher, so a high positive number is better.

RAR for pitchers is calculated by taking the replacement level ERA, which is generally taken to be 5.75, subtracting the player's ERA, diving by 9 (since ERA is a measure of runs given up per 9 innings), and multiplied by innings pitched:

(5.75 - ERA) / 9 * IP

Wins Above Replacement, WAR: It's generally accepted in sabermetric circles that 10 runs is equal to 1 win. So, to find out how many Wins Above Replacement a pitcher earned, their RAR is divided by 10.


Beyond the Box Score's article on this topic covers many pitcher stats. I'll let you look through those at your own leisure. The most advanced is a new stat called tERA. It takes the three true outcomes mentioned above, plus HBP and percentage of hits that were ground balls, line drives, infield flies, and outfield flies, plus takes the ballpark into factor. With input that complicated, it has to be accurate, right? Well, you and I can just take their word for it for the time being.

Since the goal for many sabermetricians is to take luck out of the equation, StatCorner - the same people that created tERA - also created xIP, expected Innings Pitched. Put simply, xIP tries to determine what each play "should have been" (ie, a screaming liner that was caught is changed to a hit, and a blooper that dropped is changed to an out) to give a more accurate look at the pitcher's workload.

Indians RAR/WAR in 2008

How did the Indians fare in 2008?
Cliff Lee2222.64778
CC Sabathia122.673.26343
Fausto Carmona1214.64151
Zach Jackson573.81121
Aaron Laffey92.674.77101
Paul Byrd1285.4050
Jake Westbrook334.4050
Matt Ginter21.333.7650
Anthony Reyes324.7440
Scott Lewis234.5230
Jeremy Sowers1185.89-20
Bryan Bullington9.677.49-20
Tom Mastny1.6723.83-30
Total Result98279.13162.4516.24

As you can see, by this methodology Cliff Lee won eight games all by himself. Meanwhile, Matt Ginter, Bryan Bullington, and Tom Mastny were almost the definition of replacement level.

But that 162.45 total RAR means nothing without context. Cleveland finished fifth in the AL in RAR in 2008, just behind Boston and Tampa Bay, and just ahead of Anaheim and Minnesota. Toronto and the White Sox were almost 50 points ahead of their closest competitors, thanks to aces (Roy Halladay and Mark Buehrle) that scored in the 70s with a solid supporting staff. (Halladay and AJ Burnett are worth stars, but the rest of the Toronto rotation is very underrated.

Indians RAR/WAR in 2009

So, how do the Indians look in 2009? Will they need to add another starter?

The calculations for tERA and xIP are beyond my abilities at this point, so I cheated and used the innings pitched and ERA predictions from the 2009 Marcels. Here's what Marcel have to say for the guys currently on the 40 man roster.
Cliff Lee1803.80394
Fausto Carmona1354.13242
Zach Jackson834.7291
Aaron Laffey1124.26192
Jake Westbrook934.16162
Anthony Reyes844.45121
Scott Lewis724.00141
Jeremy Sowers1274.82131
Total Result88634.34147.0314.7

Uh oh. That 147.03 RAR would be, by 2008 standards, ninth best in the AL. But there are a few things to remember. Marcel is admittedly a "dumb" system, and it looks at three years of data. That means it's taking Cliff Lee's disappointing 2007 and Fausto Carmona's nightmare 2006 into account. Also, RAR is dependent on innings pitched. So, once the Indians settle on their five best starters, and give them the innings that went to "experiments" last year, the numbers should improve.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

The National Lampoon Sports Minute (Or So)

By Steve Hofstetter, Keith Alberstadt, Ryan Murphy, and Chris Strait

Florida won the SEC Championship game over Alabama. Bama fans haven't been that upset since they heard that "The Dukes of Hazard" wasn't real.

Elsewhere in college football, Oklahoma dismantled Missouri on Saturday. It was such a ruthless punishment, fans thought the BCS was playing Texas. The BCS refuses to institute a playoff system - because they don't want to force football players to miss the classes they planned on skipping anyway.

The chairman of the Chicago Cubs said he expects the team to be sold by spring training. And that will fix everything.

And of course, O.J. Simpson was sentenced to prison. It took so long for true justice to be served, we thought the courts were being run by the BCS.

The New York Giants won the NFC East division. They celebrated by dumping Gatorade on Plaxico Burress' smoldering leg.

Manny Pacquiao's domination of his former hero Oscar de la Hoya bore a striking resemblance to de la Hoya's domination of his own hero Julio Cesar Chavez. It's so similar, Pacquiao has also put out a lousy CD.

The Arizona Cardinals clinched the NFC West. After the game was in the bag, Kurt Warner asked if his team wanted paper or plastic.

Angels reliever Francisco Rodriguez met with the New York Mets about coming to their bullpen. Or as they call it, where ERAs go to die.

And Oklahoma QB Sam Bradford will have surgery on his hand. The good news is that it's his non-throwing hand. The bad news is that the surgeon is a Texas fan.

For more of the Sports Minute (Or So), visit

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Notre Dame Winter Sports Schedule

Are you like me? Now that you're no longer on campus, you have trouble following Notre Dame basketball and hockey? It's not like football, playing every Saturday. That's why I compiled this combined schedule for Notre Dame hockey, men's basketball, and women's basketball. As you can see, the #1 hockey team won't be on national TV during the regular season (at least according to, but they are often on South Bend's regional Comcast Sports, and those games are often syndicated to Sports Time Ohio in the Cleveland area. So, as they say, check your local listings.

All times are Eastern. Once I figure out how to format the times properly, I'll do so.

Direct Link to Google Spreadsheet

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

It's Ballot Time Again!

(I said it with more enthusiasm this year in the hopes of improving voter turnout.)

Once again, it's time to vote for the KankaNation Hall of Fame.

List up to 10 people you think should be in the KankaNation Hall of Fame, and email to by 5 pm Eastern on December 31.
Those who receive a certain percentage of the vote (depends on how many ballots are received; usually 66-75%) will join the Classes of 2004-2008. Those who received multiple votes last year will receive one carryover vote this year.

To view past inductees and voting results, click one of the links below:
Class of 2004
Class of 2005
Class of 2006
Class of 2007
Class of 2008

Cleveland Indians Sabermetrics 101: BABIP

Inspired by this post at Beyond the Boxscore, here's my first "homework assignment" for Saber-Friendly Blogging 101.

Batting Average on Balls In Play, BABIP, is essentially batting average for everything except strikeouts and walks. I'll let the article above, Wikipedia, and the Sabermetric Wiki give you the details.

BABIP for hitters relies on many factors and will vary from player to player. But for pitchers, BABIP always seems to fall in the .290 to .310 range. What does this mean? If a pitcher is widely outside of that range one year, you can expect them to regress back to those numbers the following year, and their overall performance should follow. (I'm sure there are cases of certain pitchers having consistently high or low BABIP numbers, but I don't know of any offhand.)

So, how did Indians pitchers fare in 2008? To find out, you can check The Hardball Times or Fangraphs. Or, if you'd rather do the work yourself (or, like me, didn't find out about the THT and Fangraphs page until after doing the work), you need to start with their 2008 stats.

If you're not up to the task of setting up a MySQL database of baseball stats, you can simply copy and paste them from Baseball-Reference's 2008 Indians page into Excel. To determine At Bats, I took BFP (Batters Faced by Pitcher) minus Bases on Balls and Hit By Pitch. (I assumed IBB totals were already included in IBB.) I also ignored Sacrifice Flies because that information wasn't readily available. My results were almost identical to those from the Hardball Times. Fangraphs' were a little different, but as the Sabermetric Wiki mentions, there are several variations to the formula.

Rich Rundles19.3851.80
Tom Mastny89.34410.80
Edward Mujica157.3286.75
Rafael Betancourt284.3115.07
Zach Jackson221.3105.60
Masahide Kobayashi229.3064.53
Rafael Perez288.3043.54
Cliff Lee852.3012.54
Jeremy Sowers491.3015.58
Jensen Lewis260.3003.82
Aaron Laffey369.2944.23
Fausto Carmona470.2945.44
Jake Westbrook131.2623.12
Anthony Reyes129.2591.83
Scott Lewis91.2222.63
Jonathan Meloan5.0000.00

I included At Bats in this table to illustrate a point: in general, as at bats increased, the pitcher's numbers moved more to the .290-.310 range. Rich Rundles and Jon Meloan only faced a handful of batters, so their numbers can largely be ignored. But you could almost argue the same for Scott Lewis and Tom Mastny.

Now, this table is good news for Tom Mastny and Ed Mujica, and even Rafael Betancourt and Zach Jackson to some extent. All posted high ERA and high BABIP. But their BABIP should go down in 2009, and their other stats should improve as a result. Conversely, Anthony Reyes and Scott Lewis will probably see their spectacular 2008 numbers fall back to earth. Jake Westbrook will probably see a decline as well, once he's finally healthy.

If BABIP holds true, that middle group should stay about the same. That's great news for Cliff Lee, Rafael Perez, and Jensen Lewis, as well as Aaron Laffey and Masahide Kobayashi to some extent. But it's also bad news for Jeremy Sowers and Fausto Carmona.

But BABIP is by no means a be-all, end-all predictor. For example, while Rafael Betancourt was on the edge of the expected BABIP range, his ERA was abnormally high (for him) due to a lingering injury that kept him from throwing his fastball, which is his best pitch. And while Cliff Lee was right in the middle in terms of BABIP, he'll still be hard-pressed to repeat the phenomenal year he had in 2008. Still, his BABIP numbers do show that 2008 wasn't entirely luck, and that Lee should still do very well in 2009.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Cleveland Indians: Is Being Average An Improvement?

Recently, Walk Like a Sabermetrician took a look at 2008 hitting by position. They calculated runs created and runs created per game for each position, and used that to create a Runs Above Average metric that compares each player to the average production at their position.

My hypothesis has always been that you should want at least league-average production at every position - or at least a net of league average production.

So how did the Indians fare in 2008? Not too well. If you scroll down to the second to the last table in the Walk post, you see that the Indians were great at shortstop and center field, very good at catcher, and varying degrees of bad everywhere else. That's only three of nine positions above average, and a net of -11 runs above average.

The next step is to predict how the Indians will fare in 2009, to see what, if any, changes need to be made. I couldn't figure out how RAA was calculated. However, I did take the 2009 Marcels and calculated runs created and RC/27 for each of the Cleveland Indians key figures. Having that, I could compare that to the positional averages from the Walk article.

Now, I will admit there are two problems with my methodologies:
1) I'm using the generic RC/27, while "Walk" is using RC/G. RC/G uses the average number of outs per game (since the home team doesn't bat in the ninth when they're leading), which from what I could tell is normally around 25.5.
2) I'm comparing 2009 projections (from an admittedly simplistic projection model) to 2008 numbers, when ideally I should be comparing to several years worth of data.

That being said, here are Cleveland's RC/27 numbers for 2009, according to Marcel:

Unfortunately, the Marcels don't include lefty/righty splits, but that would be a nice thing to look at in the future. Keeping that in mind, the best lineup by these numbers would have Kelly Shoppach catching; Victor Martinez at first; Asdrubal Cabrera, Jamey Carroll, and Jhonny Peralta in the infield (I'll leave the position argument for another article); Ben Francisco, Grady Sizemore, and Shin-Soo Choo in the outfield; and Travis Hafner at DH.

The 2009 projections give Cleveland four players above the league average for their position - Shoppach at catcher, Peralta at short, Sizemore in center, Choo in right, and Hafner at DH - with Cabrera around the league average at second and Martinez not too far behind the league average at first. (Or, if you prefer, you can call Peralta a league-average third baseman and Cabrera an above average shortstop.) You can increase that number to five if you count that Francisco's numbers are above-average for a center fielder and Sizemore's are still above average for a center fielder.

Fans of the Indians should see several nice things in these numbers: Martinez' ability to handle first without much of an offensive number, Cabrera's bat catching up to his glove, Peralta able to hit enough to be at least an average first baseman, and Hafner bouncing back to be productive again. Of course, these are just projections, but the offseason is always a time for optimism.

Now, back to the numbers. To recap, the Indians have five above-average positions (comparing Francisco to a center fielder), one average, one slightly below average, and one well below average. Working solely off these numbers, and thinking only about 2009, the wise choice would be to trade Kelly Shoppach for a league-average infielder. In that situation, Martinez would move back to catcher and Garko would enter the lineup at first base.

Thanks to Peralta and Cabrera's versatility, that infielder can be from any position, although a 5.1 RC/G third baseman would obviously be more productive than a 4.8 RC/G second baseman or 4.4 RC/G shortstop. The increased production from Carroll to the new infielder would more than compensate for the dropoff from Shoppach's 5.36 RC/27 to Garko's 5.21.

Of course, I am in no way suggesting a trade based solely on these findings. But what I am suggesting is that, by virtue of having more players at or above their position's averages in 2009, the Indians can look forward to a better season offensively.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Cleveland Indians: A Look at Baseball America's 2009 Top Prospect List

Baseball America recently released their Top 10 Cleveland Indians prospects for 2009. Along with the top 10 list is a list of the Indians best tools, and an always-fun look at what the Cleveland lineup may look like a few years in the future.

This year BA projected what the Indians may look like in 2012, and like their current prospect list their were some surprises.

The Prospects List

The biggest surprise to most, I'm sure, is that catcher Carlos Santana tops outfielder Matt LaPorta, who many thought to be one of the top prospects in any organization. LaPorta struggled with the Mendoza line in double A, the Olympics, and the Arizona Fall League, no doubt feeling the pressure of being "that guy from the CC Sabathia trade."

Meanwhile, Carlos Santana broke out at all levels this year. Indians fans lamented the journey of catcher Max Ramirez, who went from Atlanta to Cleveland for half a year of Bob Wickman in 2006, then to Texas for half a year of Kenny Lofton in 2007, then blossomed into a Major League-ready talent in 2008. Well, the Tribe got their payback when they traded half a year of Casey Blake for Santana, who now ranks just ahead of Ramirez in Project Prospect's latest Top 10 Catchers Under 25 ratings. Oh, and Santana is a full year and a half younger than Ramirez.

The article that accompanies Baseball America's Top 10 list correctly assesses Mark Shapiro when it comes to evaluating young talent. While Shapiro has come up short in the draft - often with questionable picks - he excels at acquiring minor league talent from other organizations, and complements that with free agent signings from Latin America. The list reflects that assessment, as Santana, LaPorta, and Michael Brantley find themselves among the Indians best prospects after starting this year in another organization. (Brantley was the player to be named later in the Sabathia trade.)

However, Shapiro is starting to show a knack for finding diamonds in the rough during the draft as well, as Cleveland's top three picks over the last three years - David Huff, Beau Mills, and Lonnie Chisenhall - find themselves at eigth, fifth, and sixth on the list. Mills, from a northwestern junior college, and Chisenhall, who until that point was most famous for getting kicked off of the University of South Carolina's squad for theft, were both considered overdrafts, but have flourished so far in the minors. Adam Miller and Canadian hero Nick Weglarz are also Shapiro draft picks.

This Year's List vs. Last Year's

Of the players who made both lists, Nick Weglarz was the biggest gainer, going from sixth in 2008 to third in 2009. Adam Miller and Beau Mills both fell, from first to fourth and third to fifth respectively. Miller's injuries notwithstanding, the two's new status is less a reflection of their own regression and more a reflection of the increased talent at the top of Cleveland's pool.

Chuck Lofgren and Jordan Brown fell off the list entirely from last year, and perhaps not surprisingly were left exposed in the upcoming Rule V draft. Lofgren especially deserves a second chance, as his poor 2008 was a result of injuries and his mother's battle with cancer.

Wes Hodges also fell from the list from his number four spot, but he continues to be Cleveland's projected third baseman, for at least 2010 and 2011. (For more on the 2012 lineup, keep reading.) David Huff stays the same at number eight. Aaron Laffey, Ben Francisco, and Jenson Lewis, meanwhile, all "graduated" from their prospect status in 2008.

Best Tools

I didn't get to see any of these prospects in action in 2008, so I'm not in a position to agree or disagree with anything BA said. However, there are some promising signs to point out.

Michael Brantley has immediately become the team's best hitter for average and best athlete. That's great for someone who's expected to be the team's leadoff hitter of the future. That's especially great on a team that's been starved for athleticism as of late. Matt LaPorta, predictably, is the team's best power hitting prospect. Finally, it's nice to see that despite all his struggles, Adam Miller is still considered to have the best fastball and slider in the organization.

Cleveland Indians Projected 2012 Lineup

Indians fans will notice quite a few exceptions from 2008 on this list: Victor Martinez, Kelly Shoppach, Ryan Garko, Asdrubal Cabrera, Franklin Gutierrez, Ben Francisco, and Aaron Laffey stood out for me.

Garko, Gutierrez, Francisco, and Laffey, while decent, are also easily replaceable. Victor Martinez's current contract is up before 2012, and Baseball America surely took that (and Victor's age) into account.

But what about Shoppach and Cabrera? The Indians recently added Carlos Santana and Chris Gimenez to their 40-man roster, who along with Martinez, Shoppach, and Wyatt Toregas give the club five catchers. Some say that is a clear sign the Indians will use Shoppach as trade bait to fill in a key need this offseason.

Cabrera is the mystery, though. For the past several months, I've campaigned to move Jhonny Peralta to second base, both because his defense isn't good enough for short and his offense isn't good enough for third. I was just about to give up (hey, we can move him to third and sign a good offensive second baseman to make up for it) when Baseball America sparked the debate again. That leaves the shortstop position open to Cabrera and Carlos Rivero. I don't know much about Rivero, but I'll take the experts' word on him for now. After all, it is just harmless speculation.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Notre Dame Football 2008
Issue 11: Syracuse, Senior Week

Notre Dame Players to Watch

37 Anello, Mike Cornerback67 Bemenderfer, Thomas Center94 Brown, Justin Defensive End27 Bruton, David Safety40 Crum Jr., Maurice Inside Linebacker72 Duncan, Paul Offensive Tackle11 Grimes, David Wide Receiver6 Herring, Ray Defensive Safety96 Kuntz, Pat Defensive End86 Kuppich, Paul Tight End/Long Snapper20 Lambert, Terrail Defensive Cornerback43 Leonis, John Defensive Cornerback28 McCarthy, Kyle Defensive Safety45 Patterson, Kris Wide Receiver48 Quinn, Steve Inside Linebacker41 Rodriguez, Nikolas Halfback44 Schwapp, Asaph Fullback13 Sharpley, Evan Quarterback35 Smith, Kevin Inside Linebacker41 Smith, Scott Outside Linebacker63 Tisak, Jeff Offensive Tackle77 Turkovich, Michael Offensive Guard/Tackle42 Washington, Kevin Inside Linebacker

No analysis for this one since it's Senior Week, but I did want to point out that Syracuse's quarterback has a familiar name. Cameron Dantley is the son of Irish basketball legend Adrian. Cam wears number 4, likely a tribute to his dad's number 44.

Also, for those who haven't heard, Michael Floyd and Brian Smith, injured against Navy, are out for the season. With Kevin and Scott Smith potentially playing their last games, there go the hopes of an all-Smith linebacking corps.


Notre Dame 34, Syracuse 17

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Notre Dame Women's Basketball 62, LSU 53

Editor's Note: Scroll down for a recap of the ND-Navy football game.

Notre Dame's women's basketball team kicked off their season on national television Sunday in the State Farm Tip-Off Classic. The 14th/16th ranked Irish took on the 22nd/24th ranked LSU Lady Tigers on the Tigers' home court.

Both teams looked rusty for the first 10 minutes of the game, but started to get into a groove after that. It was a close contest all the way, but Notre Dame pulled away in the second half and held on to win 62-53. The Irish won thanks to solid free throw shooting and a pressure defense that really rattled the young LSU team.

Ashley Barlow, the tough-as-nails scrapper with the sweet shot and great all-around game, is now expected to be Notre Dame's go-to scorer. She didn't disappoint in this contest, finishing with 19 points.

The Irish started with Barlow andMelissa Lechlitner, and Lindsay Schrader at guard, Becca Bruszewski at power forward, and Erica Williamson at center. But Williamson saw limited playing time in this one, as Devereaux Peters spent most of the game at one forward position, and Burszewski and freshman Erica Solomon rotating at the other forward spot. Freshman Natalie Novosel also came in occasionally to give the three guards a breather.

Schrader finished with 13 points and Peters 12. Peters has the height of a power forward (6'2") and the game of a slashing small forward. The ESPN announcers said several times that it will be hard to keep Peters out of the starting lineup, and it's hard to disagree with that sentiment.

Solomon looked good on offense and rebounded well on both ends of the floor. Her defense needs work, but this was only her first game at the collegiate level. Erica Williamson returned late in the game to provide much needed post presence on defense.

Overall, this was a sloppy game, but in the end Notre Dame showed why they're in the top 20 in both polls. Once their offense got going, it worked smoothly - cuts to the basket were turned into easy layups, and those layups were actually made. Free throws continue to be a source of strength for this team. When they needed some momentum, the Irish turned up the pressure and it led to turnovers and easy points.

It was a good start to the season for this Notre Dame team. They went into a hostile environment against a ranked opponent for their first game of the season, and they came away victorious.

The Irish women's basketball next plays on Wednesday at 7:00, in their home opener against Evansville.

Notre Dame 27, Navy 21

Quarterback: Jimmy Clausen finished a very deceiving 15-of-18, as almost all of his passes were screens or dumpoffs over the middle. When he did throw downfield, he added two more interceptions to his total. In his defense, though, he was playing most of the game without Michael Floyd. Clausen did rush three times for five yards, including a headstrong head-first dive that almost resulted in a knee injury.

Running Back: The gameplan called for Notre Dame to pound the ball at Navy's undersized 3-4. James Aldridge was the feature back, recording 80 yards on 16 carries. Robert Hughes added 64 yards on 13 carries, while Armando Allen had 60 on eight carries. Freshman Jonas Gray had seven carries for 16 yards, and his struggles were partially due to Navy crowding the box in obvious run situations.

Allen also had a big day in the passing game, recording team highs in catches (seven) and yards (60). Aldridge and Hughes also had one catch apiece.

Fullback: Asaph Schwapp didn't record a touch in this game, but he did have several key block to aid the Irish ground game. Steve Paskorz made an appearance at fullback as well.

Receiver: Michael Floyd left early in the game after Aldridge and a tackler rolled into his left knee. With Floyd out, the Midshipmen were able to key on Golden Tate and hold him to zero catches. Tate did lose three yards on a "wildcat" formation direct snap. I was wondering just the other day if Coach Weis, with his NFL ties, would ever give a wildcat look. He did, but the timing was bad. Since it was the first play of the second quarter, it gave Navy time to react and align themselves properly before the snap.

David Grimes lead all receivers with three catches, plus one 10-yard gain that was credited as a run on a swing pass. Robby Parris, playing in Floyd's absence, and Duval Kamara each had one reception.

Tight End: Kyle Rudolph had one catch for eight yards.

Offensive Line: The line wasn't perfect - Clausen was hurried a few times, sacked once, and had the ball knocked out of his hands for a fumble. But overall the Notre Dame offensive line played well, especially the left side, on the way to an efficient 340 yard performance.

Defensive Line: As a whole, the defense played well for a second straight week. But the line especially played well in this one. Ian Williams had seven tackles, which is outstanding for a nose tackle. Justin Brown had five tackles, one for a loss, and recovered a fumble. Pat Kuntz had four tackles, including a half-sack.

Linebacker: Toryan Smith has had at best an up-and-down career at Notre Dame, but he had the game of his life on Saturday. Smith led the team with 10 tackles and returned a blocked punt for a touchdown. Unfortunately, Toryan's production came from increased playing time after Brian Smith went down with a right knee injury after being chop blocked.

After being shut out in the Boston College game, something you never want to see from your fifth year middle linebacker, Mo Crum rebounded with seven tackles and a forced fumble.

Safety: Thanks to the play of Toryan Smith and the Irish line, David Bruton and Kyle McCarthy didn't have to be heroes in this game. Bruton and McCarthy did finish with six and five tackles, respectively, and Bruton did come close to picking off both of Navy's first two pass attempts.

Cornerback: Not surprisingly, playing Navy's triple option offense, no Irish corner recorded more than two tackles. Still, freshman Robert Blanton always seemed to be in the right place at the right time, recording a huge stop in the backfield early on, and breaking up a pass to the end zone on Navy's second-to-last play of the game.

Kicker: Don't look now, but Brandon Walker has made nine of his last 10 attempts, including field goals from 28 and 36 yards in this game.

Punter: Sure, Eric Maust's three punts were the first for Notre Dame against Navy in the Charlie Weis era. But I'm sure the team will take a win over a silly record any day, especially when their punter averages 44 yards per kick.

Kick Returner: Golden Tate returned two kickoffs in this game, one for 18 yards and one for 20.

Special Teams: Well, the Irish will definitely be working on recovering onside kicks this week. That being said, this was a win, so let's finish with the positives:

From what I can tell, batting a kick out of bounds is legal as long as you don't bat it forward. So Robby Parris did make a heads-up play, if only he had batted it in the right direction.

Mike Anello continues to inspire special teamers everywhere, as this week he blocked the punt that resulted in Notre Dame's first touchdown. He also proved, at least to some, that the "secondary line of defense" punt formation that so many college teams use isn't perfectly impenetrable.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Notre Dame Football 2008
Issue 10: Navy

Navy Rush Offense vs. Notre Dame Rush Defense

As usual, Navy runs the triple option to perfection. And as usual, at least in recent years, the quarterback and fullback position are getting the bulk of the carries. 2 Jarod Bryant has taken over at quarterback following an injury to 10 Kaipo-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada. But both Bryant and Kaheaku-Enhada are day-to-day for Saturday's game. The two have combined with 4 Ricky Dobbs to average 25-26 carries per game and 106 yards per game.

This year's bruising fullback is 36 Eric Kettani, who is averaging 13-14 carries and 75 yards per game, and 5.5 yards per carry. Backup fullback 38 Kevin Campbell is averaging close to two carries and seven yards per game.

The slotbacks have been exceptionally effective for Navy this year. 26 Shun White is averaging 11 carries and a team-leading 92.7 yards per game, as well as 8.4 yards per carry. 33 Bobby Doyle is only averaging one carry per game, but he's making it count with a 14 yards per carry average. 29 Greg Shinego is averaging just over one carry and six yards per game.

White, Bryant, and Dobbs lead the Middies with six rushing touchdowns apiece.

Notre Dame will have its hands full with a team averaging 308 rushing yards per game and 5.4 yards per carry. The good news is that the regulars on the defensive line - Pat Kuntz, Ian Williams, Justin Brown, Ethan Johnson, and Morrice Richardson - at least outweigh Navy's fullbacks. The bad news is that the linemen will have to deal with Navy's cut blocks, which they hopefully have seen a fair dose of in practice this week.

Safeties Kyle McCarthy and David Bruton lead the team in tackles, and will be looking to repeat the type of performance fellow safety Gerome Sapp had against the midshipmen a few years back. But they'll need some help from a young linebacking corps, who can hopefully stay disciplined against any misdirection plays.

Notre Dame Rush Offense vs. Navy Rush Defense

Notre Dame's rushing game has struggled its way to 115.6 yards per game and 3.5 yards per carry. Armando Allen has been the best of the bunch, averaging 11 carries and 50.8 yards per game, with a 4.5 yards per carry average. Robert Hughes is averaging eight or nine carries and only 28.4 yards per game, or 3.3 yards per carry. James Aldridge is averaging seven carries and 27.4 yards per game, for a slightly better 3.9 yards per carry.

Navy's defense is giving up 116 rushing yards per game. They're lead by outside linebacker 5 Corey Johnson, who has 62 tackles on the season - 5.5 for a loss. None of Navy's linebackers come in at over 225 pounds, so it will be interesting to see if the Irish counter with Allen's athleticism or Hughes and Aldridge's size in this game.

Navy Pass Offense vs. Notre Dame Pass Defense

Predictably, Navy's QBs don't throw much, averaging only four pass attempts. But when they do pass, they have been very effective, with a 61.7% completion rate. Bobby Dobbs has been the most effective (85.7%) in the small sample size of seven passes. KNKE has completed 72% of his passes, while Jarod Bryant has completed 56.2%.

89 Tyree Barnes is Navy's leading receiver. The 6'2" wide receiver has 15 of the team's 37 receptions and two of the team's five touchdowns on the year. After Barnes, ten Middies have caught at least one pass, but no more than four. Also, no Navy player other than Barnes has multiple touchdown receptions.

All passing defense stats can be thrown out the window when it comes to the triple option. Notre Dame may be best assigning their best cover corner to Barnes and asking the other ten players to defend the run.

Notre Dame Pass Offense vs. Navy Pass Defense

Jimmy Clausen has struggled in the middle of the season. He's still averaging 22 completions on 37 attempts, 258.8 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 1-2 interceptions per game. More importantly, he's still the starter.

Michael Floyd and Golden Tate are still the top two receivers and are still averaging around five catches per game. Armando Allen is averaging four catches per game, and David Grimes (when healthy) three. Kyle Rudolph is averaging over two catches per game, but as of late Clausen has been forcing the ball to Rudolph despite the coverage, especially on routes over the middle.

Navy is giving up 256 passing yards per game to the Notre Dame offense's 259. Navy's tackle for loss leaders are defensive ends 59 Matt Nechak and 63 Jabaree Tuani, with 7.5 and 6.5 respectively. Nechak, a physical specimen at 6'4", 249, also leads the team with four sacks.

Safety 8 Wyatt Middleton is second on the team with 61 tackles, while linebacker 51 Ross Pospisil and corner 18 Rashawn King lead the Midshipmen with two interceptions apiece.

Special Teams

19 Matt Harmon has been very good for Navy this year, converting 14 of 16 field goals with a long of 49. Even more impressive is that one of his misses was a block, meaning it wasn't entirely his fault. Harmon has made all six of his attempts under 30 yards. Notre Dame's Brandon Walker is still at 8 of 15 with a long of 48.

35 Kyle Delahooke has been a very serviceable punter for the Middies, averaging 40.7 yards per kick with a long of 55. He has had two punts blocked in 26 attempts, though. After a rough week at Boston College, Notre Dame's Eric Maust is now averaging 40.4 yards per punt and still has a long of 54.

Navy's kick return duties have been shared by 28 Greg Jones and 22 John Angelo. Jones, a receiver, is averaging 17.2 yards per return with a long of 25. Defensive back Angelo has had more success, with an average of 22.2 yards aided by a long of 57. Ryan Burkhart is averaging 61.1 yards per kickoff for the Irish. Couple that with a solid 16.5 yard return average given up by Notre Dame, and opponents are getting an average start on the 24.

Golden Tate recently took over kick return duty from Armando Allen. Tate is averaging 20.9 yards per return with a long of 29. 45 Jon Teague is Navy's strong-legged kickoff specialist. Teague is averaging 65.8 yards per kick, with seven of his 46 kicks going for touchbacks. Opponents are averaging 22.3 yards per return, giving them an average start on the 27.

Wide Receiver 85 Mario Washington is Navy's punt returner. He's averaging 7.9 yards per return with a long of just 16 yards. Golden Tate has also taken over punt returns from Armando Allen. Tate is averaging 8.1 yards per return with a long of 42.

Notre Dame Players to Watch

James Aldridge, Michael Floyd, Golden Tate, David Bruton, Kyle McCarthy


Notre Dame 28, Navy 24

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Notre Dame News and Notes

  • Jake Peavy is a hot item on this winter's MLB trade market, and the Cubs are one of the teams who want him. Rumor has it that the Padres would want Jeff Samardzija (among others) in return for Peavy.

  • Voting is now open online for this year's Lowe's Senior CLASS Award. Be sure to support for Notre Dame seniors Mo Crum in football, Matt Besler in men's soccer, and Kerri Hanks in women's soccer. Hat tip to an anonymous on campus reader for the links.

  • Speaking of online polls - those reliable sources of truth - this is unrelated to Notre Dame, but Dave Cameron is up for a $10,000 scholarship for his fine work at the baseball blogs USS Mariner and Fangraphs. Vote here, and be sure to check out both of his blogs.

  • Finally, some thoughts on the game:
    • You can't pin this one on the defense at all. They played the entire first half in their own territory, and only gave up 10 points.

    • Similarly, you can't blame the blocked punt on Eric Maust, as ESPN apparently tried to do. Yes, their are certain things a punter can do to avoid blocks, but not when someone races up the middle untouched

    • When Kyle Rudolph is the primary receiver, Jimmy Clausen has gotten into the habit of staring him down the whole time and forcing the pass no matter how many defenders are in the area. This is especially true on passes over the middle. Something to look out for in the next few games.

  • Go Irish. The future is bright but it's not here yet.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Notre Dame Football 2008
Issue 9: Boston College

Boston College Rush Offense vs. Notre Dame Rush Defense

Predictably, a year after Boston College lost its star quarterback, it is relying on its running game. What may come as a surprise, though, is that BC's top two runners are freshman. Both are small and quick.

41 Montel Harris is leading the way with 10 carries and 58.7 yards per game. Josh Haden is the latest Eagle tailback to wear the #1 jersey, and he's averaging nine carries and 39 yards per game. Junior 6 Jeff Smith is the veteran option. He's averaging four or five carries and 24 yards per game.

At 6'4", 239 lbs, quarterback 10 Chris Crane may look like a pocket passer, but he's also a threat to run. Crane averages six non-sack carries per game, and leads the team with seven rushing touchdowns.

Fullback James McCluskey averages three carries and 12 yards per game. Cornerback 21 Razzie Smith has six carries in as many games, so the Irish defense will have to look out for him as well.

Notre Dame's run defense is giving up 128 rushing yards per game, while Boston College's offense is gaining 150. With the variety of options Boston College has, Notre Dame's entire front seven will have to be on its toes. Safeties Kyle McCarthy and David Bruton lead the team with 76 and 73 tackles, respectively, while Harrison Smith now leads the squad with six tackles for a loss. But all three safeties are outweighed by Crane and McCluskey, so they will need help from the Irish line and inside 'backers Toryan Smith, Brian Smith, and Maurice Crum.

Notre Dame Rush Offense vs. Boston College Rush Defense

Armando Allen has been Notre Dame's best running back this year. Not only does he lead the team in carries (95; 12 per game) and yards per game (54.1), but he also has the best yards per carry average of the "big three" at 4.6. Robert Hughes is averaging nine carries and 29.8 yards per game, but a meager 3.3 yards per carry.

James Aldridge is averaging seven carries and 30.9 yards per game, and 4.2 yards per carry. Aldridge has also become the go-to back in the red zone, in a sense, as his three rushing touchdowns top Hughes and Allen's two apiece.

Boston College is playing without team leader 16 Brian Toal, who broke his leg in game six of the season. In the past fifteen years, the Toal family is second only to the Hasselbecks in their Boston College legacy. You may remember Brian's older brother from such moments as the deciding interception return in Notre Dame's 2002 green jersey game.

In Brian Toal's absence, fellow linebackers 94 Mark Herzlich and 34 Mike McLaughlin have picked up the slack. Herzlich and McLaughlin are first and second on the team in both tackles and tackles for a loss. Herzlich has 68 tackles and 7 TFL, while McLaughlin has 44 tackles, 6 for a loss (tying him with two other Eagles in that category).

Boston College Pass Offense vs. Notre Dame Pass Defense

For a first year starter, Chris Crane has been surprisingly effective, completing 56.1% of his passes. However, he's also shown his inexperience with 12 interceptions on the season, compared to only eight touchdowns. On an average day, Crane will complete 18 of 32 passes for 178.4 yards.

Crane's top two targets are his starting wide receivers, each averaging three catches per game. 2 Brandon Robinson is the downfield threat, averaging 16.4 yards per catch and 55.5 yards per game. 18 Rich Gunnell is averaging 9.1 yards per catch and 29.5 yards per game.

Fullback James McCluskey and tight end Ryan Purvis are each averaging two catches per game. That means Crane isn't afraid to use his dumpoff option when necessary.

Six other receivers are averaging at least one catch per game. And while Robinson and Gunnell are both under six feet tall, Crane does have plenty of options that are 6'2" or taller.

Boston College has a fairly even playcalling mix when it comes to runs and passes. But with the success the Eagles have on the ground, you have to believe the Irish will rely on their safeties for run support. That puts pressure on the Notre Dame corners, but both have played well recently. Raeshon McNeil had two interceptions last week and leads the team with seven passes defended on the season. Terrail Lambert is fifth on the team with 31 tackles.

Notre Dame Pass Offense vs. Boston College Pass Defense

There are some who say that Jimmy Clausen hasn't looked sharp in his past few games. Of course, all he does on an average day is complete 22 of 36 passes for 262.9 yards, with two touchdowns and an interception.

Like Boston College, Notre Dame's starting wideouts are leading the team in receptions. Michael Floyd and Golden Tate are both averaging around five catches per game. Tate has the edge in yards per game at 84.5 to 79.1. But Floyd has the edge in touchdowns, seven to five (not counting Tate's rushing touchdown).

Armando Allen and David Grimes are each averaging just over three catches per game, while Kyle Rudolph and Duval Kamara are both averaging close to two catches per game, and Robert Hughes one catch per game.

Boston College gives up only 168.5 yards per game on the ground, but that number is tainted by games against Georgia Tech's triple option, Rhode Island, and two MAC schools.

Still, the Eagles are averaging almost three sacks and two interceptions per game. Most of the pressure comes from their line, where 90 BJ Raji, 52 Austin Giles, 47 Brad Newman, and 60 Ron Brace have combined for 11 of the team's 21 sacks.

Mark Herzlich and strong safety Paul Anderson are tied for the team lead with three interceptions apiece. Herzlich is listed at strong safety, which tells me he's done a great job covering opponents' tight ends this year.

Special Teams

83 Steve Aponavicius is his third season as BC's placekicker. For a veteran kicker, he's been shaky. Aponavicius is 7-for-12 on the year, including 3-for-7 from 30 yards or more and a long of only 36. He's also had one kick blocked. Brandon Walker, who had a streak of seven straight field goal makes snapped at the end of the Pitt game, is now up to a respectable 8-for-15 on the season for Notre Dame. His long is the 48-yarder he made in the third overtime of last week's game.

Freshman 46 Ryan Quigley is BC's punter, although 14 Billy Flutie has punted a few times too for the Eagles. Flutie is also listed at wide receiver and has attempted a pass this season. That's the type of stuff you can do when your uncle is the face of the program. Back to Quigley, he's averaging 39.8 yards per punt with a long of 56. In fact, he's had three kicks of fifty yards or more in 28 tries. For Notre Dame, Eric Maust is averaging 41.2 yards per punt with a long of 54.

Jeff Smith is averaging 20.4 yards per kick return for Boston College, with a long of 56.Ryan Burkhart is averaging 61.0 yards per kickoff for the Irish. Couple that with a solid 16.6 yard return average given up by Notre Dame, and opponents are getting an average start on the 24.

Armando Allen and Golden Tate are sharing kick return responsibility for Notre Dame. Allen has taken most of the kicks and has a 22.1 yard average and a long of 53. However, he was not on the kick return team last week, presumably to move the focus to Golden Tate. Tate now has a 20.5 yard average with a long of 29. 23 Billy Bennett is BC's kickoff specialist, and he's averaging 62.7 yards per kickoff with three touchbacks in 39 tries. Boston College gives up a below-average 24.4 yards per return on average. That gives opponents an average start of the 32 yard line.

Rich Gunnell is averaging a solid 13.3 yards per punt return for the Eagles. He also has a 65-yard touchdown to his credit. Armando Allen started the season as Notre Dame's punt returner, but Golden Tate took over the job last week. As with kick returns, is probably just a move to give Tate more chances, and not anything negative that Allen did. Allen is averaging 9.4 yards per return with a long of 22, while Tate is averaging 3.2 yards per return with a long of 10.

Notre Dame Players to Watch

Jimmy Clausen, Armando Allen, Michael Floyd, Raeshon McNeil


Notre Dame 27, Boston College 24

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Notre Dame Football 2008
Issue 8: Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh Rush Offense vs. Notre Dame Rush Defense

Without a doubt, running back 25 LeSean McCoy is the star of this Pittsburgh football team. The workhorse sophomore is averaging 21 carries, 119 yards, and two touchdowns per game. That's right - two touchdowns per game; McCoy has 14 of the team's 20 on the season.

McCoy's backup is LaRod Stephens-Howling, who is averaging eight carries and 35.3 yards per game. Stephens-Howling has four rushing touchdowns of his own on the season. (Coincidentally, LeSean McCoy's father and brother are both named "LeRod.")

Indicative of Dave Wannstedt's smashmouth roots, fullback 30 Conredge Collins is averaging two carries and 9.4 yards per game. Junior college quarterback transfer 14 Greg Cross has been used as a change of pace, running four times in two games with a touchdown.

The Irish defense will have their hands full with the Pitt run game. Not only do the Panthers throw a variety of sizes at you (McCoy is 5'11", 210; Stephens-Howling is 5'7", 180; and Collins is 6'0", 230), but they also throw out a variety of looks, from the plays designed specifically for Cross to a "wildcat" package for McCoy. This is yet another game where Notre Dame's front seven will have to step up and help out their overworked safeties.

Of course, the front seven's play has been improving, although their stats may have been padded a bit by the performance Stanford and Washington's offensive lines. Harrison Smith now leads the team with five tackles for a loss, followed by Brian Smith and Pat Kuntz with four each and Justin Brown with three. Notre Dame has finally gotten the rushing yards per game stats in their favor - 122 yards per game for the Irish, compared to 120 for their opponents - but all that could change after facing a Pittsburgh team that averages an impressive 162.7 yards per game on the ground.

Notre Dame Rush Offense vs. Pittsburgh Rush Defense

Notre Dame continues to use a three-headed running attack, but Armando Allen is establishing himself as the star of the show. Allen is averaging 11 carries and 51.4 yards per game. Robert Hughes is next with nine carries and 30.4 yards per game. James Aldridge, whose playing time and productivity have increased over the past few weeks, is now averaging seven carries and 31.8 yards per game. Allen and Aldridge are both averaging over four yards per carry, while Hughes is down to 3.3.

Golden Tate has now run three times for 35 yards and a touchdown. But since both the Tate end-around and Harrison Smith fake punt were used last week, you probably won't see them again this Saturday.

Pitt's run defense is giving up 122 yards per game, almost matching Notre Dame's offensive output. The Panthers like to spend a lot of time in their opponent's backfield, with 42 tackles for a loss on the season. They're lead by linebacker 40 Scott McKillop, who has 10.5 TFL, and lineman Jabaal Sheard with 7.5. Pitt has eight players with multiple TFL, thanks partially to rotation on the defensive line. McKillop also leads the team with 67 tackles.

But the fact that Pittsburgh has so many tackles for a loss and yet still gives up so many rushing yards tells me that they're a high risk, high reward defense. Can they be beaten by delays and misdirection?

Pittsburgh Pass Offense vs. Notre Dame Pass Defense

11 Bill Stull has been effective but not flashy for the Panthers this season, but a concussion has him doubtful for this game. If Stull does not play, 19 Pat Bostick will replace him. Bostick would then find himself in a familiar place, as he became Pitt's starter after a Stull injury last year as well.

Pitt had a 39:17 run-to-pass ratio under Stull, and it no doubt will remain the same with Bostick under center. Pitt's leading receiver has been 81 Derek Kinder, averaging just over three catches and 35.3 yards per game. Not surprisingly, LeSean McCoy is tied for second on the team with 17 catches, matching the performance of wideout 1 Cedric McGee. Wearing the number one in Pitt colors with dreads poking out the back of his helmet, McGee may remind some of Larry Fitzerald, by look at least.

McCoy, Mcgee, and wide receivers 88 Oderick Turner and 9 TJ Porter are each averaging at least two catches per game. Four others are averaging at least one catch per game: receiver 82 Jonathan Baldwin, tight ends 80 Nate Byham and 2 Dorin Dickerson, and fullback Conredge Collins. The 6'5" Baldwin has two of the team's four receiving touchdowns, so look for him in the red zone.

Notre Dame is giving up 212 passing yards per game, compared to the 233 yards per game the Pitt offense averages. The Irish defense's goal should be to shut down the run and force Bostick to beat them. Pat Kuntz leads the team with three sacks, while David Bruton has three interceptions.

Notre Dame Pass Offense vs. Pittsburgh Pass Defense

Notre Dame's young aerial assault continues to rack up numbers, led by Jimmy Clausen. On an average day, Clausen will complete 21 of 35 passes for 261.7 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception.

Clausen has shared the wealth equally between his top two receivers, as both Golden Tate and Michael Floyd now have 31 catches on the season. That means both are averaging four to five catches a game. Tate has the slight edge in yards per game - 80.7 to Floyd's 76.1 - but Floyd has five touchdowns to Tate's four.

Armando Allen is averaging three catches and 21.9 yards per game. David Grimes is expected to be back this week, hoping to maintain his average of four catches and 36.4 yards per game. Kyle Rudolph and Robby Parris are each averaging two catches per game, although Parris has struggled to find consistent playing time. Duval Kamara and Robert Hughes are each averaging at least one catch per game.

Pitt has been stout against the pass, giving up just 187.1. No doubt that number is helped by the push of the men up front. Of Pittsburgh's 42 tackles for loss, 21 have been sacks. Jabaal Sheard leads the team with 4.5, while Scott McKillop has 4.0 and 91 Greg Romeus has 3.5.

For what it's worth, Pitt also has 25 pass breakups and 23 quarterback hits on the season. Cornerback 17 Aaron Berry leads the team with four breakups, although most of the lineman have one or two. That means the Irish playcalling will have to plan around pressure and knockdowns at the line. Not surprisingly, Jabaal Sheard leads the team with six quarterback hits. Safety 31 Dom DeCicco leads with two interceptions.

Special Teams

37 Conor Lee is back for his third season as Pitt's placekicker, and he's been very accurate so far. Lee is 11-for-13, with his only misses coming from 40+ yards. Lee's longest make on the year was from 44 yards. That's not bad, considering Heinz Field's reputation for poor field conditions and the treacherous open end of the stadium that faces the river. For the Irish, Brandon Walker has made his last three attempts to improve to four-for-ten on the year. However, he's only one-for-five in front of the home crowd. Let's hope his recent streak has improved his confidence.

18 Dave Brytus Pittsburgh's punter. He's shown a strong leg with an average of 41.7 yards and a long of 60. For Notre Dame, Eric Maust is averaging 41.7 yards per punt with a long of 54. You may notice that those numbers haven't changed from last week, as the Irish did not need to punt in Washington.

LaRod Stephens-Howling has taken most of Pittsburgh's kick returns, with a long of 21.4 yards and a long of 34. Reserve wideout 10 Aundre Wright has taken a third of the team's total kick returns, with an average of 20.3 and a long of 29. Ryan Burkhart is averaging 61.1 yards per kickoff for the Irish. Couple that with a solid 16.3 yard return average given up by Notre Dame, and opponents are getting an average start on the 24.

Armando Allen and Golden Tate are sharing kick return responsibility for Notre Dame. Allen has taken most of the kicks and has a 22.1 yard average; his long is 53 yards. Tate has a 21.8 yard average with a long of 29. In addition to long fields goals and punts, 24 Luke Briggs is the kickoff specialist for the Panthers. Briggs is averaging 62.4 yards per kickoff with two touchbacks in 38 tries. Pittsburgh gives up an even 20.0 yards per return on average. That gives opponents an average start of the 27 yard line.

Aaron Berry has returned three punts for the Huskies, with a pedestrian average of 5.4 yards but a long of 24. Armando Allen returns punts for the Irish. He's averaging 9.4 yards per return with a long of 22.

Notre Dame Players to Watch

Armando Allen, Michael Floyd, Golden Tate, David Bruton, Kyle McCarthy


Notre Dame 28, Pittsburgh 24

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Notre Dame Football 2008
Issue 7: Washington

Washington Rush Offense vs. Notre Dame Rush Defense

Washington looks to be without its top rusher, quarterback 10 Jake Locker, and will employee a running back-by-committee in his absence. Without Locker, a trio of young running backs have been carrying the load. 20 David Freeman is averaging seven carries and 45 yards per game. 27 Terrance Dailey is averaging 11 carries and 60 yards per game. 6 Brandon Johnson - as a sophomore, the old man of the group - is averaging six to seven carries but only 12.6 yards per game.

Freeman and Dailey's yards-per-carry averages have been respectable, 6.2 YPC for the former and 5.5 for the latter. Johnson's average is a mere 2.0 YPC, but he is the biggest of the backs and does have two of the teams 10 rushing touchdowns. That leads me to believe that he's the team's short yardage back.

That's right, the Huskies are very young at running back, and that's even without another freshman, the injured 1 Chris Polk. They've also distributed the ball very well on the ground, as a variety of running backs, fullbacks, and wide receivers have recorded carries. Of note, wide receivers 82 Jordan Polk and 11 D'Andre Goodwin both are averaging nearly one rush per game.

Backup quarterback 8 Ronnie Fouch has not been as mobile as Jake Locker, however. (Few quarterbacks are, of course). Fouch has netted -9 yards for the season.

Notre Dame's defense has given up 136.3 rushing yards per game this season. The good news is that they're going up against a Washington team that's averaged only 103.2 yards per game. Take away Locker's production, and that number drops to 73 yards per game. After a few impressive weeks, Pat Kuntz now leads the team with 4 tackles for a loss. Brian Smith, Harrison Smith, and Justin Brown each have 3 TFL.

Maurice Crum is tied with Brian Smith for third on the team in tackles, behind safeties Kyle McCarthy and David Bruton. Crum is one of a dozen or so Irish fifth-year seniors who spent 2004 under Ty Willingham, and Saturday will be their last chance to perform in front of their old coach.

Notre Dame Rush Offense vs. Washington Rush Defense

As mediocre as Washington's running game has been, Notre Dame is right with them. The Irish have a slight advantage in yards per carry - 3.2 to 3.0, but are averaging only 101.2 yards per game to Washington's 103.2.

The Irish are lead by Armando Allen, with 10 carries and 49.7 yards per game, and a 4.9 yards per carry average. Robert Hughes is also averaging 10 carries per game, but only 32.2 yards per game thanks to a 3.1 yards per carry average. James Aldridge, who finally recorded his first collegiate touchdown against North Carolina two weeks ago, is averaging six carries and 21.4 yards per game.

Washington's defense is giving up 5.8 yards per carry and 232 yards per game on the year, but Notre Dame's run game has been known to make poor run defenses look good before. The defensive star for the Huskies is sophomore linebacker 40 Mason Foster, who is leading the team with 50 tackles and an impressive 6.5 tackles for a loss. Perhaps telling of Washington's defensive struggles, safety 8 Nate Williams is second on the team with 43 tackles.

Washington Pass Offense vs. Notre Dame Pass Defense

Backup-turned-starter Ronnie Fouch is a bit undersized at 6'1". An average day for Fouch is completing 11 of 21 or 22 passes (50.5%) for 156.4 yards. Fouch has three touchdowns and four interceptions in five games this season.

11 D'Andre Goodwin leads the Huskies with 5 receptions and 75.2 yards per game. Behind Goodwin are freshmen 9 Devin Aguilar and 15 Jermaine Kearse, each averaging three catches and 33-34 yards per game. Behind the top three receivers, five Huskies pass catchers averaging at least one reception per game.

Jermaine Kearse leads the team with two receiving touchdowns. Tight end 86 Michael Gottlieb and running back 35 Brandon Yakaboski have the team's other two receiving touchdowns, so look for them in the red zone.

As mentioned above, no less than eight Huskies are averaging at least one catch per game, so the Irish defense will have to be on their toes. One nice thing for the Notre Dame secondary is that they won't have to worry about too many height disadvantages. Gottlieb is 6'5", but of the top three wide receivers, Kearse is the tallest at 6'1". Pat Kuntz, adept at knocking down passes at the line, is probably licking his chops at the thought of facing a "short" quarterback in Fouch.

Kuntz also leads the Irish with three sacks, while four other players have one apiece. David Bruton has two interceptions, while five other Irish players have one apiece.

Notre Dame Pass Offense vs. Washington Pass Defense

Jimmy Clausen has showed sophomore growing pains, but he's also shown why he was such a sought-after recruit out of high school. On an average day, Clausen will throw 36-37 passes and complete 22-23 of them (61.6%) for 271.8 yards. On the season, he has 14 touchdowns to 8 interceptions.

Clausen's four main targets are each averaging around four catches per game. Golden Tate is averaging 86.3 yards per game, Michael Floyd 71.0, Armando Allen 26.7, and David Grimes 36.4. Tate and Floyd each have four touchdowns on the season, while Allen has one and Grimes two.

Kyle Rudolph is averaging two catches and 27.7 yards per game and has two touchdowns on the year. Duval Kamara, Robert Hughes, and Robby Parris are each averaging at least one catch per game, although Parris has struggled to find playing time with the emergence of Tate and Floyd.

The Huskies give up 250.2 passing yards per game. Cornerback 23 Mesphin Forrester is third on the team with 34 tackles. Mason Foster and corner 28 Quentin Richardson have the team's lone interceptions, while defensive end 66 Daniel Te'o-Nesheim has recorded all three of the team's sacks.

Special Teams

Washington employs two place kickers, and both are struggling. 13 Ryan Perkins is the short-yardage kicker, and he's made one of three attempts - a 35-yarder. 12 Jared Ballman is the long-range kicker, but all of his attempts have come from only the 40-49 yard range. He's two of five on the season. For the Irish, Brandon Walker is now two for eight on the year.

Jared Ballman is also Washington's punter. He's averaging just 38.8 yards per punt, but has five punts of 50 or more yards, including a 64-yarder. He's also had plenty of practice, with 32 punts in six games. For Notre Dame, Eric Maust is averaging 41.7 yards per punt with a long of 54.

Jordan Polk has been Washington's primary kick returner. He's averaging 18.8 yards per return with a long of 38. Ryan Burkhart is averaging 61.0 yards per kickoff for the Irish. Couple that with an 16.4 yard return average given up by Notre Dame, and opponents are getting an average start on the 24.

Armando Allen and Golden Tate are sharing kick return responsibility for Notre Dame. Allen has taken most of the kicks and has a 22.1 yard average; his long is 53 yards. Tate has a 21.8 yard average with a long of 29. In addition to long fields goals and punts, Jared Ballman also kicks of for the Huskies. Ballman is averaging 62.4 yards per kickoff, and seven of his 23 kicks have been touchbacks. That's a pretty good leg. Washington gives up 21.7 yards per return on average. Their website is also nice enough to list the average start for opponents on kickoffs: the 27 yard line.

Devin Aguilar has returned three punts for the Huskies, with an average of 7.7 yards and a long of 14. Armando Allen returns punts for the Irish. He's averaging 9.4 yards per return with a long of 22.

Notre Dame Players to Watch

Justin Brown, Maurice Crum, Terrail Lambert


Notre Dame 33, Washington 19