So where the heck are we? After six games last season, the Irish were sitting at a nightmarish 1-5, having slipped into the win column by beating a UCLA Bruin team that was down to their third-string QB in a game where Notre Dame was outgained 282 yards to 140. But we weren't really worried about style points at that juncture.
In 2008, after six games the Fighting Irish sit at a much-improved 4-2, but with the bitter aftertaste of a blown opportunity in Chapel Hill stinging on their tongues.
The Irish faithful are generally ecstatic over the dramatic improvement they have seen from this football team, most particularly in the passing game as the result of a maturing QB, an influx of talented young receivers, and quantum leaps in the pass blocking by the offensive line.
But I wanted to try to get a more concrete or objective look at how much this team has improved in the past year, and the midway point of the season seemed like a logical time to do it.
What I have done is compiled some statistics comparing the performance of the 2008 Fighting Irish through six games with the performance of the 2007 Fighting Irish through the first six games of last season. It's a little arbitrary.
Why not compare to the full season stats from 2007? Or just the stats from the common opponents from each season?
I guess I like the symmetry of looking at the stats from the midpoint of each season, which allows us to look at the progress over the course of a full year, rather than the progress over just a half-season, which we would have if we compared end-of-year 2007 stats against mid-year 2008 stats.
Of course, there are three types of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics. So take the following with a grain of salt, and know that I know they can be interpreted a lot of ways. Nonetheless, I still found it a very useful and somewhat surprising exercise.
Set out below are two charts. The first compares some key stats for the Notre Dame offense through six games in 2007 and through six games in 2008. Blue numbers in the differentials columns represent a positive trend from 2007 to 2008. Red numbers indicate a negative trend.
The second chart does the same thing looking at the performance of the Notre Dame defense. Blue is a good trend for the Irish, and red numbers are a negative trend.
To see the charts and read the analysis, click here.