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Adams: Takeaways, takeaways and more takeaways from another CFB weekend

| Monday, October 26, 2020

Bet you thought you’d seen the last of these. Well no sir/madame. I’m back and still lamenting Kentucky football cause the heartbreak never stops. Enjoy!

1. Aren’t you glad Notre Dame doesn’t lose to unranked teams?

Yes, it’s become a bit of a moral victory at this point, considering the Irish can’t seem to get over the hump against the top-tier teams of Clemson, Alabama, Georgia, etc. But it does in fact say something that the Irish have the second-longest winning streak against unranked teams — their last loss coming during the 4-8 disaster in 2016 — behind only Alabama, who hasn’t lost to one since 2007.

Meanwhile, Kentucky football is out here losing to the likes of Ole Miss at home and Missouri on the road. Ole Miss. And. Missouri. Let that sink in.

Don’t get me wrong. Notre Dame’s system is great because it makes the most of their talent against teams that they are better than, but it then holds them back against more talented teams like the ones already mentioned. Even so, though, you don’t have to deal with the heartbreak Kentucky fans do.

And, at least for me, I’ll take the consistency and the confidence that their talent affords Notre Dame the capability of beating one of those teams over a meandering program that every now and then manages to pull of an astounding victory that matters little in the grand scheme of things, because it still doesn’t get them to a conference championship or major bowl game.

2. There’s this thing called regression to the mean…

Regression to the mean refers to a principle in statistics that, essentially, things always tend to revert back to an average despite the occasional instances where they go to extremes. It’s why there aren’t giants roaming the earth, because even when two very tall people have children, those kids tend to be closer to average height than their parents.

Evidently, this principle applies to college football as well.

I’m talking about a very specific aspect of the game though: turnovers. Remember how in a previous one of these columns I talked about how Clark Lea should have a statue built because of the way he coaches his defense, especially the way he has them go for the ball when they’re tackling? Well, you would have thought I was crazy the way they played the next couple of games.

I wrote that column after Notre Dame beat South Florida, at which point in the season they had two forced turnovers (both fumbles against Duke) and a blocked punt for a touchdown (against USF). They then had only one interception against Florida State and no forced turnovers against Louisville. This all despite numerous opportunities in every game for defensive backs, especially graduate student Nick McCloud, to pick off passes.

At the same time, Kentucky was just torched by Auburn and Ole Miss while recording no turnovers. After that, Kentucky recorded nine interceptions in the span of two games and won by a combined score of 58-9. Saturday, they forced no turnovers and lost 20-10, while Notre Dame finally managed to get a defensive groove going and pick off three passes of their own against Pittsburgh.

My point here is that the other shoe dropped. The pendulum swung back eventually. Nine interceptions in a two-game span is about as extreme as it gets, but now the Wildcats are averaging 1.8 interceptions and 2.0 turnovers per game, defensively. That’s a solid average, you just wish it were a little more evenly distributed in terms of what makes up that average.

Notre Dame now averages 0.8 interceptions per game, which isn’t great, but it’s much better than the 0.25 they averaged going into the matchup with the Panthers. I’d like to think that, since they didn’t travel to the extremes Kentucky did, nor are they getting the excessive amount of fumbles they got last year, that around a 1.0-1.5 average is what we can expect from the Irish on a per game basis.

3. Don’t always listen to fans, but maybe sometimes

Sports fans are generally crazy. The demands they make of their teams and players often border on the absurd. However, every once in a blue moon, the fan base can come to a collective consensus that is actually logical.

Case in point: when the strength of your offense is running the ball, you should run the ball, especially against a team whose weakness has been defending the run. Furthermore, in executing that strategy, you should give the ball to the player who has proven to be your most consistent ball carrier, especially when your more explosive runners are injured and/or ineffective.

Somehow, though, these seemingly valid points go over the head of Kentucky offensive coordinator Eddie Gran. Contrast that with Notre Dame, who took advantage of the Pittsburgh weakness of which basically everyone in the Irish fan base was aware: throwing the deep ball. And they did so with a quarterback at whom fans have been screaming for years to air it out.

Now, did the coaching staff intend to take deep shots because they themselves saw that as an exploitable area in game prep and not as an act of appeasing the fans? Probably. But it’s more fun to think that the masses played a role in getting through their thick skulls, isn’t it?

Although I will say as a disclaimer that, like every other fan, there is always the possibility that I have no idea what I am talking about and there is something else going on with Gran and Kentucky. But for now, let’s just assume I and all the other fans who share my opinion are right.

That’s all for this week. I keep thinking I’ll run out of these but then UK gives me more and more material then I could ever want. Seriously, I don’t want them to give me this material because it means they are crushing my soul over and over again.

Oh well. Maybe they’ll give me a brief break with their next game. Who do they play? Georgia? I guess I’ll see y’all next week. Until then, enjoy Halloween.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Hayden Adams

Hayden is the former sports editor of The Observer. When he's not working toward his four majors (physics and film, television & theatre) and three minors (journalism, ethics & democracy), you can probably find him hopelessly trying to save his beloved Zahm House from being wiped out. He plans to attend law school at a TBD location after graduation.

Contact Hayden