Some preseason predictions cannot be made in the preseason. There are too many unknowns. One such planned Notre Dame prognostication was intended to look at sophomore quarterback Tyler Buchner’s completion percentage.
The first-time starter has notable running ability. That was shown plenty in his situational package last season. But he has not been relied on in a passing game since … 2019 as a high school junior. His ability to read a college defense, let alone make an accurate throw, on Saturdays is wholly unknown.
Losing to No. 2 Ohio State, 21-10, did nothing to change that. Buchner started 8-of-8 — and while one of those was a remarkable acrobatic catch from former walk-on Matt Salerno, Buchner still deserves credit for putting the ball where only Salerno could make a play on it — but he then finished 2-of-10. A 55.6 percent completion rate is not an utter disaster, but it is also not good enough to lead an efficient offense.
Obvious one-game sample size disclaimers notwithstanding, also ignoring the quality of defense faced compared to most of the remaining Irish opponents, a 55.6 season-long percentage would have ranked No. 98 among 100 qualifying quarterbacks last year. In fact, that was the exact completion rate of perhaps 2021’s most-maligned quarterback, Clemson’s DJ Uiagalelei.
But none of Buchner’s incompletions on Saturday stood out as decidedly off-target. He had no turnover-worthy passes. There is plenty of reason to expect improvement.
“We got ourselves a quarterback,” Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman said Monday. “There’s a strong belief in what he can do for this football program.”
This is not intended to become a commentary on that belief. It is instead meant to say, who knows? This space did not feel comfortable projecting Buchner’s efficiency before Saturday, and it remains befuddled at what to expect.
If he can improve just a touch — DeShone Kizer completed 62.9 percent of his passes in his starring 2015 season, while Brandon Wimbush struggled to a 49.5 percent completion rate in his sole season as the starting quarterback in 2017 — then Buchner could be a thoroughly dynamic dual-threat quarterback.
"They sent me some number for a QB rating. I don’t know much about QB ratings, so I told them I can’t use that."
— Douglas Farmer (@D_Farmer) September 5, 2022
MORE ABANDONED PREDICTIONS
When publishing 40 preseason predictions, some end up on the cuttting room floor. There was a thought of junior running back Chris Tyree matching his career stats in just this season. He had 718 rushing yards and 323 receiving yards in his first two seasons combined with seven total touchdowns. Such a 2022 would have stood out, but after taking six carries for 28 yards and catching one pass for six yards last weekend, that expectation feels steep.
That was less a knock on Tyree and more a positive reflection of sophomore running back Audric Estime—excuse me, part-time fullback and running back Audric Estime.
— Notre Dame Football (@NDFootball) September 4, 2022
Estime finished with nine carries for 21 yards, obviously a lesser showing than Tyree’s statistically, but Estime looked to be Notre Dame’s featured back, even if Tyree is up nine pounds to 197 from playing at 188 last year.
Another pondered prediction that looks better dismissed was that freshman tight end Eli Raridon would match Kyle Rudolph’s freshman season, when he caught 29 passes for 340 yards and two touchdowns, and Tyler Eifert’s debut campaign of 27 receptions for 352 yards and two scores.
Those were the gold standards for freshman seasons from tight ends at Notre Dame until Michael Mayer caught 42 passes for 450 yards and two scores in 2020. Raridon may well be the next great Irish tight end, but he is no Mayer.
After not playing in Columbus, perhaps 2022 hopes for Raridon should be tempered. He’ll still play this year and maybe catch 10-plus passes, but nothing in the realm of Rudolph in 2008 or Eifert in 2010.
100,000 IN THE STANDS …
The size of Saturday’s crowd may not have gotten enough attention ahead of time. While the only reason 100,000 stands out is because we, as humans, evolved to have 10 digits on these hands, it still reflects a significant jump up from most stadiums. With the exception of Georgia’s Sanford Stadium — 93,246 were in attendance when Notre Dame lost there in 2019 — most stadiums that exceed 85,000 do so by enough to reach six digits.
They had some impact on Saturday, twice forcing Buchner to call a timeout to avoid a delay of game.
“Little bit of crowd noise,” Buchner said after the loss. “Little bit of just working the communication stuff. That’s another one of those little things we have to clean up.”
How many different stadiums have the Irish played in with at least 100,00 fans in attendance after 106,594 watched on Saturday?
Let’s pause for a moment so you can ponder, and let’s use that moment to note who the most famous one of those 106,594 was.
LeBron James and son, Bronny, throw up an I-O in response to Block "O''s" O-H call. pic.twitter.com/CBKQYV2scB
— Lantern Sports (@LanternSports) September 3, 2022
Notre Dame has played in only seven stadiums in its history with at least 100,000 fans in attendance.
— Soldier Field, many times.
— Michigan, many times.
— at USC in 1948, when somehow the Coliseum sat 100, 571.
— at Tennesee in 2004.
— at Penn State in 2007.
— at Texas in 2016.
— at Ohio State this weekend.
I haven't rewatched last night yet, but Ohio St RT Dawand Jones false started 3 times. One started a drive; it was a false start.
The others came after *close* catches of 16 and 11 yards, both gaining first downs, and the right side of the line was closest to OSU's sideline. https://t.co/jDJYZKcQei
— Douglas Farmer (@D_Farmer) September 4, 2022
ON THE EXPANDED PLAYOFF
It once again looks like we are barrelling toward an expanded, 12-team College Football Playoff, though its first year of existence is to be determined.
This is the plan long expected, the one where Notre Dame would host a Playoff game in December as long as it is one of the top-8 teams in the country. And that aspect alone should excite any Irish fan.
Per The Athletic, Notre Dame likely would have made this postseason format nine times this century, including three times in the last four years. Brady Quinn would have been in it twice. Maybe the most talented Irish roster of the century, the 2015 team would have also obviously been in the mix.
These are all good things for college football.
Put this another way, crossing off the last notes I made this weekend:
121 teams in the country want #NotreDame's defense. At least.
(While the Irish want the receivers of the top 3-4 teams in the country …)
— Douglas Farmer (@D_Farmer) September 6, 2022
INSIDE THE IRISH
— Notre Dame defense keeps Ohio State offense in check, but still not enough for the Irish
— Highlights: Irish defense holds until the fourth, but then Buckeyes strength shows
— Things We Learned: Notre Dame’s foundation of ‘a good, a tough football team’ in 2022
— ‘Down and dirty’: Ohio State finds a way to win ugly
— Get In or Get Out: A survey of 131 FBS starting quarterbacks
— SI Top 10: SEC sends Pac-12 to the woodshed
— Which new coaches and coordinators came to the rescue in week 1
— Recent success secures Notre Dame’s treasured independence
— USC’s resurgence as college football’s most hated team: ‘Sports needs villains’
— A 12-team College Football Playoff in the BCS/CFP eras: Who would have made it?
— As college football resets, CFP expansion offers hope to all conference tiers (whatever we end up calling them)
— Ambulances and calls to mom: An inside look at protocols for seriously injured Badgers
"Run game put the Irish behind the chains, and they had no way of catching up."
— Douglas Farmer (@D_Farmer) September 5, 2022