Notre Dame Football 2018 Stock Report: Week 10

The Fighting Irish football team managed to not only move to 9-0 with a 10 point win over the home Wildcats, they showed themselves better than Michigan once again.

There has been a movement from certain sports writers, namely Dan Wolken of USA Today and Ralph Russo of AP sports to opine that while Notre Dame beat Michigan head to head (pretty key metric in my opinion), the Wolverines have shown themselves better in recent weeks. Fortunately, we now have a common opponent to compare against!

The Wolverines played at Northwestern earlier in the season, falling behind 17-0, and ultimately prevailing 20-17. The Irish of course never trailed, were up multiple scores in the third quarter, and ultimately won by double digits. Not that this will convince those writers, after all their eye test tells them all they need to know, but it’s fun to point out the Notre Dame football team continues to do things better than the Michigan football team in 2018.

S&P+ Trends

  • Notre Dame remains at #6 in the S&P+ rankings. Northwestern entered the game 64th and they fell to 68th.
  • The Irish gained ground in both of their offensive and defensive ratings in S&P following their 10 point win. They rose to 3rd overall defensively, where they were previously 6th, and 27th offensively, up from 34th last week. Have to think they’d be a top 15 offense had Book been playing since game one.
  • Notre Dame’s upcoming opponent Florida State comes in at 75th, 102nd on offense, 39th on defense. Last week S&P projected an 87% win probability against the Seminoles, with a 19 point spread. Have to think those numbers have only risen since Notre Dame’s win and Florida State’s loss on Saturday.


Chase Claypool

It’s always nice to write an article on Thursday on the areas where Notre Dame can better utilize a player on offense, and then said player has their best game of the season two plays later. I cannot confirm that Brian Kelly and Chip Long are loyal readers of this site, but I can’t refute it either, especially after what Claypool showed on Saturday.

He finished with eight receptions for 130 yards, good enough for 16+ yards a catch. It featured a thirty yard gain with Notre Dame backed up to their own goal line, which led to a fifty yard touchdown pass to Michael Young a couple plays later to put the Irish up two scores. Notable on that catch was the matchup, against one of the top corners in the nation, in a one on one matchup. That’s the beauty of Claypool; he’s good enough and physical enough to best anyone in single coverage, no matter the player. Hopefully this is something the Irish continue to exploit, as they look to develop a one-two punch at wide receiver with Miles Boykin, who continues his stellar play.

Michael Young

Not a ton of volume for Young, but they were finally able to get the sophomore speedster over the top of a defense for a long touchdown. These opportunities were available all game against Navy, but not exploited, to the chagrin of many. The Irish took their shot on Saturday and it paid off. They’ve been lacking on explosive plays in the passing game this year, and this illustrates how important they can be. Moving the ball methodically is nice too, but taking your time getting into the end zone can leave you vulnerable to getting the ball to first and goal at the five and couple mistakes later having second and goal from the 20. The emergence of Young, and Claypool, as deep threats only helps a player like Book because it opens up the intermediate areas of the field, where the junior signal caller excels.

Jordan Genmark Heath

Genmark Heath filled in for Drue Tranquill for the majority of the contest, with Tranquill coming in on a lot of third downs. The sophomore contributed six tackles, and like his linebacker mate Drew White the week before, he provided unspectacular, but solid play. This is an important development not just for this season, but next as well, as Genmark Heath will be a key player on defense with Tranquill departing.

Building depth is always a good thing, and as was true last week, sometimes being a dependable body out there is all you need.


The Secondary

Let’s be clear, the secondary was pretty good on Saturday. Northwestern threw 29 passes and gained 141 yards. That’s paltry, especially when that’s all they had. So, no panic here. But, they continue to have trouble with their nickel package, and trying to find the right combination of players when they go five defensive backs.

They moved Julian Love inside at one point while bringing in Donte Vaughn, and Vaughn was again picked on. They used Houston Griffith at times inside, and brought him on a couple of blitzes, but those never came close to getting home. Griffith also gave up a 27 yard touchdown pass to make it 24-14 in the fourth quarter, although a decent case could be made he needed to get some safety help on that play.

There are some teams coming up, mainly Syracuse and USC, who can really exploit the troubles of the Irish nickel defense, and following game nine it’s getting to the point where this group might just be what it’s going to be.

Special Teams

Special teams can be an asset for some programs. A net positive. It can also just be neutral. Nothing spectacular, but it’s not hurting you either. For Notre Dame it’s a liability. It gave Michigan life. It gave Pittsburgh a chance. And now it gave Northwestern a chance. It’s unacceptable, there is no other way to say it. If it keeps up, it will cost them a game, whether in the regular season, or in the playoffs. It’s unbecoming of a team of their caliber. Brian Kelly needs to step in. Chip Long runs the offense, Clark Lea runs the defense, and they run them well. Polian isn’t running a good special teams unit, that’s where Kelly needs to spend his time.

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  1. Everyone knows that ND has had problems on special teams (whats so special about them) for several years now. Kelly seems to ignore this issue so his ignoring of this problem actually is the real issue. So one must ask, why? I personally believe that he doesn’t really care about special teams. Maybe he figures that if they fail the rest of the team will pick them up and fix the immediate problem on the field. For some reason Kelly gave it a moments thought a few years ago and hired Polian to take the job. Obviously after Polian took the job, Kelly walked away and gave it no more thought. So here we go again. The real problem is not Polian or the guys on special teams, its Brian Kelly. Right now I’m sure that the only reason he doesn’t can Doerer (sp) is because they have no one else for his duty so they have to put up with him and keep their fingers crossed every time the kid walks out onto the field. Someday the problem might get fixed but will it be by Kelly or the next ND head coach?

  2. EVERYBODY complaining about the NW game remember this. NW led everybodys new favorite team MICHIGAN 17-0 b4 MICHIGAN came back to escape with a 20-17 win!! NW is tough, but our ST again cost us big time in this game!! KELLY doesn’t throw his coaches under the bus, but POLIAN has been a major disappointment from start to finish!! I’VE never seen so many kickoffs go out of bounds this year , than all my 48 years of watching ND FOOTBALL!!

  3. I see a lot of posters pointing out the flaws of Irish 2018 season — game after game. Yet these kids are still winning/persevering– Go Irish—onward to 10-0 !

    1. Agree Southside but it’s because we know this team can have even better production than it already has. I’m very excited and I know everyone else is that this team is 9-0 but we all know what it is going to take to win it all. The improvements we speak of is what is going to make this an elite team that can play with any of the playoff teams. We need to close this season out firing on all cylinders, get all three facets of the game working together, and this will be a scary a** team come playoffs!!! Go Irish!!!

    2. Southside: The team does keep persevering…despite more than our fair share of devastating injuries, because it is the best ND team since ’93; no question in my mind on that…but do you really believe that we can afford to spot BAMA or CLEMSON a touchdown on a kickoff return, or a blocked punt, and still persevere? I don’t. I don’t even think we survive against Syracuse if our “Special Ed” Teams don’t wake up! They are our Achilles heal, have been since GAME ONE, and nothing seems to change about that!

      BGC ’77 ’82

  4. Notre Dame is a great team and they have several top players but if you stop and look at it, they are only as good as their coaching. It’s sad but I have to say that ND will never be an elite team until the school hires elite coaches. Who those coaches will be, I don’t know but you sure don’t see any green grass under Saban’s butt.

  5. Nice article, Greg. The poor special teams play is nothing new. This has been an issue, and I wonder if BK understands it? Ialso wonder why they must wait till half-time to make obvious much needed adjustments? Why cant the Irish put together a complete game? On one hand, they are 9-0. On the other hand, it’s time to solve these nagging issues and put together a complete game. The Irish have yet to play their best ball – that is good – only if it ever happens.


  6. Greg, Great article! You covered it all – everything that needed to be said. A bunch of good posts on this page too!

    To Brad: Come on down to South Bend for some (hopefully) NASTY weather…you should feel right at home…but you can’t buy any pot here either! Oh well.

    And to you FSU folks…leave those nice warm Orange groves behind and come on up and play a game in the Pines!

    BGC ’77 ’82

  7. Great report. I will note quickly that each of the three teams that ND plays will be coming in looking for an upset. Why? 1) Because everybody still likes to beat ND, 2) Every team wants to beat an undefeated team. 3) Every team wants to beat a top five team. 4) There is still a chance for a few players on any one of Florida State, Syracuse or USC to have a great game against a storied team and catch the attention of an NFL scout.

    So I will echo the comments that I have read on this blog numerous times. We need a complete game out of the players AND the coaches. BTW – why do we have to wait until half time for adjustments in the offence and/or the defence. These are all intelligent university students (they are aren’t they?). Is it asking too much to make an adjustment during the game?

    I won’t say anything more about special teams – it has already been said.

    I’ll be coming down from Canada to see Florida State in the cold weather. I hope the boys don’t disappoint me.

    Go Irish


    1. Brad,

      Amen brother on the adjustments!!!! Clearly you see it too. We wait entirely too long to make them on the offensive side of the ball and this is why we don’t bury teams we should. And this is why ND is never talked about with the likes of Clemson, Alabama, or even Ohio State when they’re up there because these teams DESTROY the teams they should and it’s because they are constantly adjusting to what the defense is doing against them during the game. They aren’t waiting until halftime or late in the game in general to do it. And they put up 50+ points on a regular basis. Our offensive coaches MUST get better at this. 7 points in the first half against NW is a JOKE!!!!!!!! With our athletes and QB, there is no way we shouldn’t have more than 7 freakin points. Same with PITT. What do those games have in common? No adjustments made early in the game to how the defense is playing them.

      1. And to think a Cincinnati team beat a Navy team 42-0 this last weekend and when ND played them, especially the 2nd half, they at times looked like a high caliber team against ND.

    2. I was thinking the same thing about in-game adjustments. I don’t know why it takes half time in the locker room to make the necessary adjustments. Can’t the defensive coach huddle his player on the side line with a chalkboard while the offense is on the field for example? It really showed during the Navy game.

  8. Going to have to agree with Damian-what is up with the Special Teams this year? Recent memory suggests that this is the primarily the weakness ND has and has yet to fix. It’s going to bite ND one of these games
    and it may cost them a shot at the playoffs OR in the playoffs. Coach K, you gotta do something about this!!

    1. Ryan,

      I love that you literally can’t stand Brian Polian and make it well known on here haha! But I’m with ya my man. They’ve pretty much been garbage all year and it could bite us big if we keep allowing the blunders to happen.

      Kickoff return is a joke. It’s the same return type every time. Nothing new. Just run straight ahead wherever you catch the ball and hope for a massive hole. No tries out wide, no reverses or fake reverses, no faking blocking one way and then block the other way, etc. Just a very vanilla KO return game. Punt return has been getting better other than stupid offsides penalties. But still don’t feel that our blocking schemes are good for punt return. Finke has shown if he has a little bit of space that he can get some yards but rarely does he get a lot of room on a non fair-catch.

  9. Greg,

    Good article. Agree on all accounts. I’ve said it before but I just don’t understand our DBs not looking back for the ball. Especially on Griffith’s terrible TD he gave up, even without safety help, that should have been an interception. Hell the ball almost hit him in the belly. If he turns around, it’s a pick right to him. We got hosed on Elliott’s PI as he barely touched him. And then Boykin’s offensive PI was even worse. The corner was pressing Boykin and Boykin is allowed 5 yards of contact downfield which he broke off before 5 yards AND the ball was NOT out to Finke before Boykin let go of the contact. Total BS call and 15 yards later we are in a FG attempt rather than going for a TD from only a few yards away. Surprise surprise, not one penalty on NW all night.

    1. At least Tirico didn’t cheer NW’s comeback, which is what he’d have done if he was calling the game.
      No outrage, Burgy- but no surprise; anyone who hasn’t figured out Tirico and Flukie at this point hasn’t been paying attention.
      Like Abbott and Costello’s “Who’s on first”, Burgy’s replies dismissing bias against ND are always when revisited entertaining and amusing with each reiteration, but not to be taken as anything but snark.

      I never met a ref, and I know many, who didn’t grow up a sports’ fan and had favorite teams and others they grew up rooting against. To assume refs (and sportscasters) can leave all that behind and be totally objective game day is beyond ridiculous and beyond belief.

      8 penalties to zero, especially that phantom call against Boykin at the goal line, and the two calls against CMustipher, suggest ND was alone in committing penalties, which reinforces the false narrative that any person, even one who wears a striped shirt and given an empowering whistle stuck in his mouth on game day, can be trusted to be totally objective.
      To recognize judges, teachers, lawyers, politicians, bishops, corporate execs and others can be biased but not refs (or even sports announcers and analysts, Burgy) is beyond naive, regardless of Burgy’s snark. Some missed calls are part of the game; but I’m not willing to dismiss that there are certain individuals in game time decisions who forego their team favorites and become objective in their analysis and penalty calls.
      Nor do I believe in Santa, the Easter bunny, or even the good witch, though my wife insists her sister is one.

    2. Totally agree on Griffith’s horrendous effort. He CLEARLY had no idea where the ball was. The safety help is irrelevant.
      Not going to say that ND got screwed by the refs, but NW definitely got all the breaks in that game.

      1. True George, but remember, we were saying the same thing about some guys two years ago who are now playing like champs in the secondary. As Greg noted in his article above, using these young inexperienced guys now may pay dividends next year and the year after…and they will improve yet this year, even with only three more games and a month of practice for the Bowl.

        BGC ’77 ’82

  10. ST’s is definitely a liability. Once or twice this year they had ok games and I thought maybe, just maybe things were cleaned up. But then they have a game like they did against Pitt or NW. A blocked punt that put NW right back in the game. Now I’ll grant yon the NW player that blocked it (I forget who it was at the moment) was blazingly fast, but they have to be ready for that. If it was just one miss by ST’s, ok, no one’s perfect, but things of that sort keep happening. Against Pitt it was an offsides call that kept the D on the field and they end up scoring a TD.

    The defense I thought was B+. They gave up an early TD, and then the late TD NW had just before the blocked punt I noticed they were back to playing touch football. They missed a couple tackles that allowed NW to net yards. But there were long periods in between where they were frustrating the NW offense. At times it almost looked like they were blitzing with just the front 4.

    Offense was decent enough but for a time it seemed they fell into a lull. They score an early TD then they seemed to take a break for a while and didn’t score again until the 3rd quarter. But they got the job done.

    Now on paper they should be able to beat FSU pretty handily, USC too. But with this ND take nothing for granted. We should be able to score at will on FSU’s defense, but who knows. USC? Well it’s USC and they always play us like it’s a NC game. But they should win that one too. That just leaves up and coming Syracuse. They’ll be a test. I just hope Swarbick doesn’t regret sacrificing a home game for that. NYC is a lot closer to Syracuse then South Bend and I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of Syracuse fans travel to NYC for this one since they are doing so well this year. ND has been doing well on the road this year…but it’s still usually better to play at home if you have the chance.

    And what’s worse. Syracuse may almost be an away game and we still have to listen to Flutie. Ugh the agony.

    1. Yeah don’t understand why Flutie always down the Irish but is all too willing to sing the praises of the opposing team. The narrative should be neutral.

      1. Re: Flutie
        1) went to Boston College (NDs rival)
        2) got beat by ND in the Liberty Bowl his last college game
        . . .are two explanations for your question . . .

  11. Good call on Claypool Greg, but no need to do an end zone celebration as your faithful read your insightful comments on utilizing him more. Now we have Young, Michael.

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