The Fighting Irish didn’t lose until the College Football Playoff last season and already have one loss this year, but their offense looks every bit as good as a year ago.
Scouting Ian Book
The biggest change since the opening game of 2018 for Notre Dame is at quarterback. When Michigan faced ND, Brandon Wimbush was their quarterback. Midway through last season Wimbush was benched and Book took over, leading the team to a College Football Playoff berth.
Book had a 68.2% completion percentage in ‘18, had a 19:7 TD:INT ratio, and rushed for 280 yards and 4 scores. With a year of experience under his belt, Book has done a fine job of taking care of the football through six games this season, throwing for 1,419 yards (63.2% completion percentage), with 14 touchdowns and just 2 interceptions. Book is still scrambling plenty and is a physical runner in the open field who doesn’t shy away from contact, rushing for 188 yards and 3 TD’s so far.
Both of Book’s interceptions this season came against Georgia on the road in Notre Dame’s 23-17 loss that went down to the wire. Although Book had a couple throws he wishes he could have back, his performance was praise worthy. For much of the night, Book was under duress and continued to buy time. When Book was scrambling for his life he was able to make things happen for ND and pick up crucial third down conversions via scramble and pass.
Book is a leader that can rally his team when they’re trailing. He’s a fighter that doesn’t give up and never feels his team is out of a game. Even when Clemson thrashed them 30-3 last year in the College Football Playoff Book didn’t take his foot off the gas and was fighting until the very end.
A quarterback that can make accurate throws to all quadrants of the field with an attacking mindset willing to push the ball vertically, opposing defenses best shot at slowing Book down is pressuring him. Book is most likely to make mistakes when there’s pressure right in his face in the pocket, if Book is able to get out of the pocket he can make magical things happen even with defenders close behind him.
Standing at 6-foot-5, Chase Claypool is a big and bad dude who has above-average speed to go along with his physicality. Claypool excels at back-shoulder catches, 50-50 grabs, and is a reliable red-zone target.
Claypool has 27 receptions for 394 yards and 4 touchdowns on the year. Claypool has a massive catch radius and great ball skills and is the No. 1 option for Ian Book.
Notre Dame always seems to have a good tight end on their roster, and this year is no different. The No. 2 option for book, Cole Kmet, has 21 receptions for 265 and 3 touchdowns and is yet another go-to target for Book in the red-zone and on 3rd down. The 6-foot-5 Kmet flashes strength and steady speed for his position and will present a challenge for Michigan’s linebackers.
Kmet has enough to speed to stretch the field and look for Book to throw it Kmet deep at least once or twice versus Michigan.
While not as flashy, Chris Finke is equally as reliable as Kmet and Claypool and plays a lot out of the slot for ND. Finke is in the Cole Beasley mold of receiver, someone who doesn’t put up insane statistics but is a crucial part of an offense’s success nonetheless. The former walk-on is tough as nails and can take big licks in the open field and still hold onto the ball.
Other notable receiving targets:
- Tommy Tremble: 9 receptions, 136 yards, 2 TD’s
- Javon McKinley: 8 receptions, 200 yards, 3 TD’s
- Avery Davis: 6 receptions, 98 yards, 2 TD’s
Running Game and Offensive Line
Notre Dame’s run game is a one man show, with Tony Jones up to 557 yards and 4 touchdowns on just 80 carries. The second most productive runner has been QB Ian Book with 188 yards, so expect to see Jones carry the load on Saturday. Jones worst games of the year have came against the stiffest run defense ND has faced, though, and that’s something to keep in mind. Against Georgia, Jones rushed for 9 carries for 21 yards.
Jones can really make defenders miss in the open field with his smooth cuts and quick feet, and there’s a chance he’ll be used as a receiving option against Michigan. Jones only has six receptions on the year, but four of them came against Georgia where the Bulldogs were blitzing Notre Dame often. Michigan, as usual, will be blitzing a ton, and it would make sense to get the ball out quick with Jones getting involved in the pass game out of the backfield.
A lot of Jones’ success or that of any other running back relies on a productive offensive line, and Notre Dame has that in their arsenal. The o-line made the midseason honor roll for the Joe Moore Award, which goes to the top offensive line in the nation.
Pro Football Focus is also throwing praise toward the unit, grading them as the best pass blocking offensive line through seven weeks.
The Notre Dame offensive line leads the way in pass-blocking efficiency through 7 weeks of action! pic.twitter.com/RapcS6wz0h— PFF College (@PFF_College) October 16, 2019
“Our o-line does such a great job,” quarterback Ian Book said about his o-line making the Moore Award midseason honor roll. “They keep me safe. I trust all of those guys, whatever play it is to do their responsibility. I am super proud of them. It’s an awesome accomplishment. I know they are excited and have half of a season to keep going but they’ve done a great job. I really just trust those guys. There is so much leadership already with all five of them. It’s great I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
- Total Offense- 30th
- Red Zone Offense- 1st
- Passing Offense- 42nd
- Passing Yards per Completion- 24th
- Completion Percentage- 42nd
- Rushing Offense- 41st
- Passes Had Intercepted- 8th
- Team Passing Efficiency- 15th
- Sacks Allowed- 39th
- 3rd Down Conversion Pct- 42nd
- First Down Offense- 107th
- Fumbles Lost- 8th
- Time of Possession- 118th
- Turnover Margin- 1st
- Tackles for Loss Allowed- 33rd
- Turnovers Lost- 3rd
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