Getty Images

Friday at 4: Four things you do not see

20 Comments

For all the enjoyment football brings so many, it is a game predicated on one sense above all others: sight.

Sure, the atmosphere in Spartans Stadium this weekend will include the sounds of yelling fans, the smells of propane grills and the taste of cheap, domestic buds. Even the weather will trigger the feeling of sweat.

The game itself, however, needs only working eyes. There is a reason film is usually watched on mute, after all.

There are some things related to the game not seen, or not seen often, though.

Let’s start with an educational session from the NFL’s Cal Ripken — Cleveland Browns left tackle Joe Thomas

Yes, that is the same Thomas as the one drafted in the same year, in the same round, by the same team as former Notre Dame quarterback Brady Quinn. Quinn has not seen NFL action since getting eight starts for the Kansas City Chiefs in 2012, throwing two touchdowns compared to eight interceptions.

Thomas, meanwhile, now blocks for his second former Irish passer while on his way to a likely 11th consecutive Pro Bowl. Note: This is Thomas’ 11th year in the NFL. Not only has he started all 162 games of his career, he has now played in more than 10,000 consecutive offensive snaps.

That’s, uhhh, a lot.

Thursday morning Thomas met with reporters and offered some insights to how he gauges a successful day at the office. (Fair warning: The following embedded video does include one four-letter word. Thomas’ point is quoted and summarized below, so the video may not be necessary to view.)

“You always hear a lot about 4.0 yards per carry, which is sort of everyone’s standard,” Thomas said. “… If you look at rushing in the NFL, you go alright, we went for 1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 60. And then you go, we’re rushing really well, we have a seven-yard average. But really how are you going to get the offensive coordinator to call a run again if he’s getting one and two yards and facing a third-and-seven all the time?”

Well, you’re not.

Thomas prefers “rushing efficiency,” valuing runs of more than four yards, runs gaining first downs and runs finding the end zone. If those make up at least 60 percent of rush attempts, Thomas deems it a success.

“That’s what’s going to allow you to get 20, 25, 30 carries in a game,” he said. “Then you walk out of the game feeling good about getting your 100 yards at the end of the game versus saying you didn’t have four yards a carry, but you were really efficient so you did stay ahead of the sticks, and you were able to keep the offense on the field and be in manageable third downs.”

This space has previously argued the easiest way to learn if a rushing attack is potent or not is to simply note how many running attempts it has. This parallels Thomas’ argument: If the run game is not doing what it needs to do, the coaches will stop calling running plays. The run efficiency percentage is simply a more exact metric, albeit one you cannot see in a glimpse of a box score.

How has Notre Dame fared thus far this season?

Using Thomas’ standards, the Irish had a 61.90 percent rush efficiency in the season opener (42 rushes), a 32.35 percent rating in their one loss (34) and a 66.67 percent tally in last week’s record-setting rushing performance (51).

This method of evaluation may be useful to keep in mind as Notre Dame faces a good, but not great, Michigan State defensive front seven. It would be reasonable to expect that figure to fall somewhere between the Georgia low and the Temple baseline.

815 Gigabytes is, all things considered, not that many.

Lost in all the Campus Crossroads construction, criticism and congratulatory lauding, perhaps the most-needed change has flexed its muscles already this season.

That sounds like a lot of data flying across the Stadium invisible to any eye. But take a look at it from a micro view.

Notre Dame Stadium held 77,622 people two weeks ago. That makes for an average of 10.5 megabytes per person. Let’s set a baseline of a data plan allowing for 5 gigabytes of usage a month. That would equal 0.2 percent of the data granted that plan. Given 30 days in a month, one could be reasonably expected to use up to 3.33 percent of that data on any given day without setting too ambitious of a pace.

Such relatively low usage is a good thing, though. Fans are actually watching the game they are at. It is not the most common occurrence in 2017.

Michigan State opened against two MAC teams. Has Notre Dame ever done that?

Irish coach Brian Kelly did not criticize the Spartans for starting the season against Bowling Green and Western Michigan, but he pointed to it as a reason for their outstanding defensive statistics to date.

“Look, they’ve played two games,” Kelly said Tuesday. “Western Michigan is a really good opponent. It’s harder to judge Bowling Green. … Stats right now, as it relates to Michigan State, are a little early.”

By no means does this thought intend to diminish the Broncos. That is certainly an admirable program, but it should also be acknowledged this is not the same Western Michigan of a year ago. (The Broncos are similar to Temple in that regard. At least someone finally made South Florida look like a top-25 team.)

If wondering has Notre Dame ever started a season with two non-Power Five opponents in a row, that has not been seen in the modern era (since the start of World War II).

If granting a decently-sized caveat of military academies being something of a different scheduling entity, especially considering the Army teams of yore and the fact that the Irish play Navy annually and will continue to do so until the grass is the ceiling and the floor is the sky, then Notre Dame has never faced more than two non-Power Five teams (using the current alignment as the determining factor) in a season.

So many as two have appeared only 15 times in the 79 seasons under consideration, including this year with both Temple and Miami (OH) on the slate.

Gus Johnson creates miracles.

This is not something you see. This is something you hear.

Prepare yourselves for a dramatic finish Saturday night, Irish fans. Johnson will be on the call for Fox at 8 p.m. ET.

To that, raise a glass. No announcer is more exuberant than Gus Johnson. That would be true even if he was calling from the parking lot.