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Advanced Stats Preview: GT vs. ND

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With some help from our friends at One Foot Down, we dig into a matchup that looks pretty bad for GT

NCAA FOOTBALL: SEP 19 Georgia Tech at Notre Dame Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire/Corbis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

After dropping its second consecutive game in convincing fashion, Georgia Tech’s season outlook has fallen. This week, Notre Dame comes to town. Ranked fourth nationally in the conventional polls and seventh in Bill Connelly’s SP+ ratings, the Irish present another significant test for the young Georgia Tech team. SP+ gives Georgia Tech a 17% pregame win expectancy, and the Vegas consensus line currently sits at Notre Dame being favored by 20 points, implying a 12% win probability for GT. Looking deeper, this simply does not look like a good matchup for the Yellow Jackets.

GT ND Advanced Stats Preview

Metric GT 2020 Notre Dame 2020 National Average
Metric GT 2020 Notre Dame 2020 National Average
Offensive Success Rate 45% 44% 42%
Offensive YPP 5.43 6 5.7
Offensive EPA/Play -0.05 0.17 -0.01
Offensive YPA (including sacks and scrambles) 7.23 8 7.4
Offensive 3rd Down Success 36% 51% 42%
Offensive Stuff Rate Allowed 26% 18% 19%
Defensive Success Rate 45% 29% 42%
Defensive YPP 5.77 4.4 5.7
Defensive EPA/Play 0.15 -0.21 -0.01
Defensive YPA 7.74 5.9 7.4
Defensive 3rd Down Success 46% 21% 42%
Defensive Stuff Rate 17% 37% 19%
Defensive Havoc Rate 14% 24% 21%
*GT numbers come from my play by play charting. Opponent numbers come from @CFB_Data and @statsowar

At first glance, this doesn’t look good. At second glance? It still doesn’t look good.

When GT Has the Ball

The number that keeps jumping out at me is ND’s 37% stuff rate on opponent running plays. They lead the country by over 4 percentage points in that category. In offensive stuff rate allowed, GT is 86th out of 102 qualifying teams. Some research that a friend helped me with this week also revealed that Georgia Tech runs the ball the second most in the country (excluding triple option teams) on second and long situations. Let’s try to simplify what that means for the ND matchup. We’re in danger of seeing a whole lot of GT offensive sequences that look like:

Stuffed Run

Stuffed Run

Incomplete Pass

Punt

This is a game where CDP has to call a high percentage of passes on first down and in second and long situations and try to exploit ND in the one area they have been relatively weak on defense, the deep passing game. We’ll be tracking 3 things closely: GT’s pass percentage on first down plays, GT’s pass percentage on second and long plays, and the number of balls thrown more than 20 air yards. Check back on Monday to see what happened.

When ND Has the Ball

Notre Dame has one of the three best offensive lines in the country. Georgia Tech does not have one of the three best defensive lines in the country. A putrid BC rushing attack put up 6 yards per carry and a 38% success rate last week on running plays. Notre Dame is likely to come out running, and running, and running some more. They also average a respectable 8.0 yards per passing attempt. There is not a particular match up advantage for the GT defense against a solid across the board Notre Dame offense.

View from the Notre Dame Sideline

Before offering a prediction, we have the privilege this week of hearing from Jack Concannon and Cooper Klaus from our sister SB Nation site over at www.onefootdown.com.

1. FTRS: How good is Ian Book, and how much of a threat has he been on deep balls this year?

OFD: Ian Book is a fine college quarterback and one a team can win with. He currently ranks 26th out of 90 eligible passers in non-garbage time EPA/Pass, and is coming off the Pitt game after putting up a season high 0.48. But he’s clearly not a top passer and doesn’t have a realistic shot at the NFL. He can get happy feet in the pocket if pressure causes the pocket to collapse, sometimes locks in on one receiver and invites pressure on himself, and is more reluctant to let it rip deep than most Irish fans would like. He’s averaged 0.64 EPA/Play on throws over 20 yards downfield, but only does so on 13% of his dropbacks. He by far favors the 0-9 Yard depth, an area he targets 47% of his throws

2. Notre Dame has an unbelievable 37% stuff rate on opposing run plays. What’s the key to being so effective stopping the run?

It’s a lot of magic from [defensive coordinator] Clark Lea. Notre Dame’s defensive line hasn’t been the most imposing presence, with only EDGE defender Daelin Hayes posting a PFF Run Defense Grade over 70. Now, we don’t know anywhere near enough about defensive line play to give an X’s and O’s perspective on this. But the success comes down to Lea being a defensive wizard. The last three years he’s been defensive coordinator Notre Dame has had major questions about how he’s going to replace departures on the defense and make up for a lack of talent in certain areas. And each year he has passed with flying colors. There’s a reason why he was the runner-up for the Boston College Head Coaching position last year despite only two years of defensive coordinator experience. Anyways, all this to say Notre Dame has solid talent up front but the sum is greater than the parts thanks to Lea.

3. Coming into the year, there was a high expectation for the ND offensive line. Has it lived up to the billing?

Absolutely it has. Notre Dame has the eleventh best offense in the country by rush EPA/play with two running backs who have never played for Notre Dame before (one being a true freshman). They are the highest graded offensive line by Pro Football Focus in the power five, and left tackle Liam Eichenberg is essentially a mainstay on the PFF team of the week. The offensive line is definitely a strength, which helps when you return all five starters from what was a solid offensive line last season.

4. If Georgia Tech was going to pull off a shocker, how would it happen?

It starts with Jeff Sims taking care of the ball. This Irish defense is too good to give drives away. If the Yellow Jackets take care of the football and Jeff Sims can exploit the Irish weak deep pass defense with a few bombs and no turnovers, the Jackets could come away with some points. Defensively, the Jackets need to shut down Ian Book early. Irish offensive coordinator Tommy Rees has gotten discouraged and abandoned the pass a few times this season, always to the detriment of the team. If the Irish run the ball on over 60% of their plays and Georgia Tech does not have any turnovers, that’s the start of a winning recipe for the Yellow Jackets.

5. Your prediction for the game?

I’m not sure that Jeff Sims can be trusted to take care of the football, and Ian Book is just starting to find his stride in the pass game. If the Irish can remain focused on this game without looking ahead to Clemson, they should be able to succeed in all phases. We’ll take the Irish 35-10. [I guess they haven’t heard about our kicking game. We don’t make field goals.]

Prediction

It’s difficult for me to see a path for GT to win this game. The difference on the two lines of scrimmage seems almost impossible to overcome. I foresee the game playing out with Notre Dame having steady success running the ball mixed with 2-3 explosive passing touchdowns. As I continue to be enraptured by that Notre Dame run stuff rate, I see a lot of run stuff - run stuff - incomplete pass - punt drives for GT. This one isn’t going to do much to quiet down the rumblings in the fanbase. 42-14 Notre Dame.