Notre Dame vs. Texas
Rematch of last year’s game in South Bend that Notre Dame won 38-3. The Fighting Irish lost three games by a total of 20 points (6.6 points per game) to opponents with a combined record of 38-4 or .904%. Texas lost six games in 2015 to bowl teams (Notre Dame, CAL, Oklahoma State, TCU, West Virginia and Texas Tech) and was outscored in those contests by a score of 273-146.
Notre Dame averaged 34.2 points per game and will enter the 2016 season with two solid quarterbacks in DeShon Kizer and Malik Zaire. Zaire started the season as the starter and completed 65% of his passes for 428 yards with 4 touchdowns and no interceptions. However, against Virginia, Zaire was injured for the season and gave way to backup Kizer. Kizer took over and played very well in completing 62% of his passes for 2,880 yards with 21 touchdowns and 10 interceptions last year. The offense was very balanced in rushing for 207 yards per game and passing for 258 yards per game.
This season, the team will need to replace both leading receivers in Will Fuller and Chris Brown, who combined for 110 receptions for 1,855 yards with 18 touchdowns. The 18 receiving scores accounted for 72% of the team’s production in 2015 which is a significant loss entering 2016.
In the teams’ three losses last year, the offense struggled in the passing game completing 55% of their passes, which was 7% lower than the team’s average of 62%.
Defensively, the Irish allowed 24.1 points per game and allowed 196 passing yards per game to their opponents last season. The unit was not good in run support yielding 175 rushing yards per game which was the highest total since prior to the 2008 season. In the team’s three losses last year, the unit allowed 216 rushing yards per game (212 to Clemson, 153 to Stanford and 285 to Ohio State).
Notre Dame finished the season with 24 total sacks and will need better production this year to make a playoff run. A weak spot for the defense was creating turnovers. On the year, the team finished -6 in turnover margin and was -9 in turnover margin on the road. In the team’s three losses, the team was -5 in turnover margin. Notre Dame only had 9 interceptions through 13 games which was the lowest total since 2011.
The Longhorns averaged 26.4 points per game and struggled to find offensive consistency last year. The offense rushed for 224 yards per game and passed for 145 yards per game. Quarterbacks Jerrod Heard and Tyrone Swoopes were both utilized to take advantage of their skill set. Heard completed 57.9% of his passes and passed for 5 touchdowns while rushing for 556 yards with three scores on the ground. Swoopes was utilized in short yardage and goal line situations and recorded 12 rushing touchdowns last year.
In the team’s seven losses, the offense averaged 20.8 points per game. The offense passed for 145 yards per game and recorded two passing touchdowns while throwing for 6 interceptions during that span. The lack of production put a lot of pressure on the offensive line and made the offense predictable along with being one dimensional in ball games. The Longhorns allowed 32 sacks last season and will need to be able to stretch defenses vertically to build on last season.
On the defensive side of the ball, the team allowed 30.3 points per game which was the highest total since prior to the 2008 season. The Longhorns allowed 219 rushing yards per game and gave up 233 passing yards per game in the secondary. The yards allowed against opposing passing offenses was the highest total since the 2008 season when the team allowed 259 yards per game. The rushing total was the most since prior to 2008 and if the Longhorns are to make a run at the Big 12 title, the defense must make a 360 degree turnaround.
In the team’s seven losses, the unit allowed 230 rushing yards per game and allowed 15 touchdowns on the ground. The secondary gave up 222 yards per game and allowed 18 passing touchdowns in the team’s losses last year.
Two bright spots entering the 2016 was the sack total of 37. Head coach Charlie Strong has done a great job of being able to find ways to create pressure even with new starters on the defensive front seven. The Longhorns were +11 in turnover margin and played better at home with a +12 margin while the unit was -1 on the road last year.
Joseph Lisi is a college football analyst and has hosted his own show on Yahoo Sports Radio Network called: Go For The 2 with Joe Lisi
He is former ABC Sports college football researcher and owner of www.Goforthe2.com. He is also the sports content editor for two-time Super Bowl Champion Mark Collins website called:www.2fivesports.com
He is a member of the FWAA (Football Writers Association Of America), the Maxwell Football Club and the National Football Foundation. Jospeh is the Director of Communications for the NY Chapter of the National Football Foundation.
He has been featured on Yahoo Sports Radio, ESPN Radio, Sirius XM, The Sid Rosenberg Show (640 AM Sports) and The FNTSY Network.
Jospeh recently publised his own eBook on Amazon called: “From The Gridiron To The Sandbox”-Memoirs of A College Football Junkie which is availbe for purchase here: