Can’t go undefeated unless you win all the games away from home. Obviously, this is self-evident, but it’s one of those things that’s easier said than done. Winning on the road is hard, that’s largely why going undefeated is hard. Case in point being the bulk of Brian Kelly’s Notre Dame career. Road losses derailed Notre Dame’s playoff chances in 2017, 2015, and 2014. It’s what separates the contenders from the pretenders.
Obviously, the 2012 crew handled their road slate very well, going 6-0 in the regular season, while famously finishing undefeated. They were a good road team, and put together some of their best performances while on the road.
2012 Road Performance
The 2012 unit saw improvements in total offense (407 to 416), yards per play (5.7 to 6.2) and scoring (23 to 28), while the defense saw their numbers slightly rise in total offense given up (336 to 270), yards per play (4.25 to 5.24) and a smidge in scoring (12.7 to 12.9). Obviously, some of these defensive numbers are really being effected by the national championship game against Alabama, but overall those numbers are really good and something any team can win with, as we saw that team do.
As the saying goes, defense travels, and that is obviously very important, but it is interesting to see that the offense took its game to higher levels as well, and if nothing else there certainly wasn’t a drop off. It’s somewhat surprising given Everett Golson’s penchant to, let’s say, get nervous at some key points.
And wouldn’t you know, the 2018 offense has shown an even bigger jump in play away from home.
2018 Road Performance
As with the 2012 defense, the 2018 version is largely identical on the road as they are at home. They give up 22 more yards per game (311 to 333), the exact same yards per play (4.40), and about four more points per game (15.7 to 19.2). Again, numbers you can win with! The offense on the other hand? Oh boy.
The offense has seen a rather substantial rise in yards per play (5.55 to 6.85), yards per game (414 to 503) and an astronomical rise in points scored (28.2 to 42.4.) And again some of this is aided by Ian Book joining the starting lineup after three home games with Brandon Wimbush, and Michigan being a part of the home group, but just look at the numbers on the road with Book at quarterback: 6.85 yards a play, 503 yards of total offense, and 42 points a game. This is not a team that struggles on offense away from home. We have a situation where the defense continues to play at it’s excellent level no matter where the game is played (they are ranked 3rd in S&P+), and the offense performs at a level that if those numbers were projected out over a full season they would rank 10th in total offense, 13th in yards per play, and 8th in scoring.
Notre Dame is a really good road team on offense!
Ian Book On The Road
The major question about any team when they head into hostile territory is how is the quarterback going to play? Especially for a Brian Kelly team, because the quarterback is really the one that drives everything. And the answer with Book at the helm is: really darn good.
Book has only played in two home games this year, so bit of a small sample (Stanford and Pitt), so bit of a small sample and was a 77% passer, averaged 8.3 yards per attempt, 271 yards a game, 6 touchdowns, 2 interceptions. Good numbers overall. On the road though, he’s rather good.
Book away from South Bend, Book is a 71% passer, averages nine yards per attempt, 312 yards a game, 10 touchdowns, three interceptions. He’s not afraid of a little noise and a little unfamiliarity. This is what has made this team so strong and what should ease the tension of fans out there who are fearful of USC ruining everything on Saturday. If our quarterback feels nerves, he doesn’t play like it. In fact, check out his second half stats.
Ian Book In The Second Half
Ian Book is good in the first half of games and a wizard in the second half, home and away. In the second frame, Book is completing 78% of his passes on 9.7 yards per attempt, 13 touchdowns to two interceptions, with a passer rating of 199.85. The guy is money after halftime. And if that’s not impressive enough, his fourth quarter numbers take another big leap.
In the fourth quarter this season Book is a 87% passer, averaging 10.8 yards per attempt, has thrown six touchdowns, one interception, and has a passer rating of 235.29.
Book is good on the road, and he’s excellent in the second half, and he’s great in the fourth quarter. That’s what it takes to go undefeated, and that’s why Notre Dame is on the doorstep of Brian Kelly’s second undefeated regular season.