Jonas Gray's fumble in the opening series in the 2011 opener versus South Florida began a season-long issue of turnovers — and not creating them.
15 Difference in turnovers between Notre Dame (29) and its 2011 opposition (14). Our research going back to the 1951 season shows that the minus-15 ratio difference was the second greatest disparity on the negative side for the program. Head coach Joe Kuharich’s 2-8 team in 1960 finished at minus-16, committing 38 turnovers to the opposition’s 22. The 2011 Irish ranked 118th among 120 teams in turnover ratio with a minus-1.15 average per game. No single team stat needs to be improved more in 2012.
14 Turnovers forced last year by the Notre Dame defense (eight interceptions and six fumbles), 11 fewer than in head coach Brian Kelly’s first season in 2010. Again, dating back to 1951 with our research, it was the fewest turnovers ever forced by an Irish defense in one season despite playing 13 games. Believe it or not, the previous low was 17 during the 9-3 season in 1990 with luminaries such as Chris Zorich, Michael Stonebreaker and Todd Lyght on defense.
13 Years in a row Notre Dame has been unable to finish unbeaten at home, easily eclipsing the previous record of eight from 1956-63. It was last achieved in 1998 (6-0) under head coach Bob Davie, beginning with a 36-20 victory against co-defending national champ Michigan and concluding with a 39-36 defeat of LSU. The Irish will be likely favorites against Purdue (Sept. 8), BYU (Oct. 20), Pitt (Nov. 3) and Wake Forest (Nov. 17), with swing games versus Michigan (Sept. 22) and Stanford (Oct. 13).
12 Wins by junior Tommy Rees as the starting quarterback. That ties him with Steve Beuerlein (1983-86) for most wins by a starting Notre Dame quarterback entering his junior season — and why he might still be considered the front-runner in the QB derby even though the job is there for the taking by both junior Andrew Hendrix, sophomore Everett Golson, or maybe even freshman Gunner Kiel. Rees is 12-4 (.750), while Beuerlein was 12-7 (.632).
11 Average yards per catch — okay, actually 10.9 — on Notre Dame’s 302 receptions last year. Only two of the catches gained more than 40 yards, and even first-round pick Michael Floyd’s average dropped to 11.5 after averaging 15.0, 18.1 and 13.0 his first three seasons. It was a testament to the overall offense’s inability to stretch the field — and seldom does a tight end lead this category (Tyler Eifert averaged 12.7 yards per catch last season). Can the Irish up the collective average to 12.0 in ’12?