What a difference one game can make.
When this competition is over in late December (with the Notre Dame loss, I suspect we ended any chance for a January bowl game), if 2005 wins, we will point to Week 8 as the pivotal game that swung the victory inexorably towards 2005.
NOTE: Since McCargo did not play in Week 8, I replaced him in the metrics analysis with Renaldo Moses, who was a key contributor in 2005, but not one of the top 5 D-Linemen otherwise. McCargo does not return until the bowl game.
Week 8 Individual Stats:
Surprisingly (as we will see after looking at the Team Stats below), the individual stats were competitive. 2017 owned a slight lead in total tackles and TFLs, while 2005 led in sacks.
If the saying often attributed to former British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli could ever be accurately utilized in our weekly comparison ("There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics."), then the individual stats prove it. If we stopped our analysis right here, most rational folks would consider Week 8 to be a draw . . . well, it is not even close . . .
Week 8 Team Stats:
2017 surrendered (or more correctly, Notre Dame earned) an astonishing 4 full yards MORE per carry than allowed by 2005, while also giving up 2 rushing TDs to 2005’s none. Who needs an analysis here when the numbers are shouting so loudly you would be unable to hear my words? In fact, the roaring noise may be impacting your ability even to read my words.
Week 8 Cumulative Stats:
With 2005’s dominating performance from a YPC and rushing TDs standpoint, the overall results remain mixed, but 2005 extended its YPC lead significantly and now has given up less rushing TDs for the season to date. 2005 also has a fairly healthy TFL lead (7) while 2017 continues to lead in sacks (only by one) and total tackles (5).
Although there are so many variables when it comes to these type comparisons (e.g., is the opponent a running vs. passing team, what are the strengths of their key players, etc.), we can assert that this week gives us the best read on the effectiveness of each D-Line due to the equality of the level of each opponent and the game venue. State played on the road against traditionally powerhouse programs while both were ranked #9 in the nation.
Despite the closeness of the individual stats, the 1.87 vs 5.89 YPC and 0 vs 2 rushing TDs metrics confer with no debate this week’s victory on 2005.
Of course, the “roulette wheel” key metric always lands on Ws – 2005 pulled off the 20-15 upset over FSU in Tallahassee; 2017 was dominated 35-14 by Notre Dame in South Bend.
Plus, you could argue 2017’s performance was even more puzzling. The 2005 squad was 3-4 (1-4) heading into the FSU game – keeping in contention for a bowl bid certainly served as a strong motivator. But what could be a stronger motivator for 2017 than a Top 10 ranking, a historically-best-ever season, and making a case for CFP contention on the national stage?
Of the three “Big Stage, National-Attention-Grabbing” games Saturday (#2 Penn State vs #6 OSU, #4 TCU vs #25 Iowa State, #9 Notre Dame vs #14 NC State), we were the only lower-ranked team to lose, and we lost by the widest margin by far. Due to the Irish’s strong running game, if the 2017 D-Line (our greatest strength) had performed up to the level of the moment, a State victory woulda / coulda / shoulda been the likely outcome.
All of State’s team goals for 2017 are still obtainable, waiting to be grasped. 2017 also still has the opportunity to be our greatest D-Line ever . . . but they missed a grand opportunity to earn “mystique” – the intangible perception of otherworldly greatness . . . standalone uniqueness . . . that for us only seems to come along once or twice a generation.
An exceptional opportunity missed . . . will the remaining ones be seized?
Week 9 Sneak Preview
2005 gets blown out at Boston College with Super Mario effectively neutralized. Were the rest of his D-Line teammates able to carry the load statistically despite a big loss?
2017 faces yet another stiff test, hosting #5/#6 Clemson. Will 2017 grasp the greatness so tantalizingly close, or will Clemson put another “Notre Dame World of Hurt” whipping on them?