Back Notre Dame Looking the Part Offensively

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Notre Dame Looking the Part Offensively

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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Notre Dame has introduced a new level of offensive production to college football.

Many of the questions about Notre Dame being a viable College Football Playoff contender have been answered the past few weeks. Could the Fighting Irish find a way to beat top-ranked Clemson? Could they then hold serve and avoid the encore letdown against Boston College? Yes. And yes. Beyond making history and then promptly validating it, Notre Dame has also introduced a new level of offensive production to college football. Don't forgot about what this team has done and how. 

The Fighting Irish, with a recent bye, are fresh off back-to-back 500-yard games for the first time since 2016.

It wasn't only that Notre Dame beat Clemson, but how as well. In addition to 518 yards of total offense, the balance and proficiency was notable; the Fighting Irish threw for 310 yards, ran for 208 yards, converted over 50% of their third down tries, had a 300-yard passer in Ian Book, a 140-yard, three-touchddown rusher in Kyren Williams, a 100-yard receiver in Javon McKinley and a playmaker with a signature moment in Avery Davis. It was a new-look for Notre Dame. Considering who it came against, one worth more than just a second glance.

In a possible trap game at a good Boston College team, coached by former Ohio State co-defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley, the Fighting Irish then responded with 557 more yards and 45 more points. The yardage total was Notre Dame's most against Power Five competition in a 25-game span. Yet again, the balance was impressive with 283 passing yards and 274 rushing yards. With Book emerging as a versatile option, the Fighting Irish averaged over ten yards per pass and five yards per rush.

Pundits were understandably critical after Notre Dame scored 12 points in a mid-October win over Louisville. The Fighting Irish, beating the nation's best team and following up for good measure, have now scored 92 points, with 1,075 total yards, the past two weeks. 

Not only has Notre Dame looked like a leading college football contender on the big stage, its offense has had a starring role.

Book has been the catalyst. After 310 yards and an iconic final drive against Clemson, he threw for 283 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 85 yards and another score against Boston College. A rare veteran in today's game, Book's next contest will his 44th. He has been in every situation imaginable, including upsetting a number one team, going through a regular season unbeaten and playing in the College Football Playoff. Though there is very little Book hasn't seen, there is even more he wants to accomplish. 

Notre Dame's playmakers have also done their part. Williams, with 992 total yards, may reach the 1,000-yard mark on his very next play. His performance against Clemson stands as one of the top individual performances of the season. McKinley has multiple 100-yard receiving games, Ben Skowronek caught three touchdown passes against Boston College and Davis has already etched his place in the record books. Another dominant Fighting Irish offensive line, this one led by Liam Eichenberg, has currently allowed the fewest sacks in the ACC.

Even after facing Clemson, Notre Dame ranks 12th nationally in total defense and 5th in rushing defense. Also 7th in the country in third down defense. This is an elite group, one that has largely played at a championship level.

The other side of the football, for the Fighting Irish, is quietly rounding into form. 

Of teams to have played multiple games, Notre Dame has college football's 7th most productive offense for the month of November at 537.5 yards per game. The Fighting Irish have 40 plays of ten yards or more.  Such production has Notre Dame in a new position entering this season's stretch run; the Fighting Irish currently look the part on both sides of the line of scrimmage.

This is a very good Notre Dame football team, one ranked second in the country. The Fighting Irish appear to be making the progress needed to be great.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: bj@espncoastal.com / Twitter: @BJBennettSports