Here’s how Notre Dame football has performed with the two quarterbacks under center.
Ian Book is not going to play for Notre Dame football against Florida State, and the offense will suffer for that fact. There is hope, but no guarantee that he will return for the Syracuse game. This leaves the offense in the seasoned hands of Brandon Wimbush. So, with uncertainty at the quarterback position, it is worth taking a look at just how different the offense has been under the leadership of each the two quarterbacks.
The most obvious way that the offense differs is how often they are willing to throw the football. Notre Dame is throwing the football about eight more times a game with Book starting at quarterback. This has not been at an extreme expense to the running game, either. Since Book took over, the Irish are only running the ball about two fewer times a game.
In reality, what this shows is that with Book under center, the Irish have been more willing to throw early and often. This has given Notre Dame the chance to run with more balance than in the past.
The running game was more effective under Wimbush than Book, however. The offense averaged 237.3 yards under Wimbush, to 202.5 yards under Book (this has been off-set by a huge deficit in Book’s favor in passing yardage).
This difference is mostly due to the read option, which gives the quarterback the option to run himself or hand the ball off. It is the only thing that Wimbush is definitively better at. Book has been rushing the ball 10.6 times a game for a little over 36 yards a game. Compare this to Wimbush’s 16.3 carries a game for over 45 yards a game, and you see how Chip Kelly obviously likes to run the quarterback more with Wimbush under center.
Most importantly, the offense scores about a ton (that’s the technical measurement) more with Book playing. The point average on the season is 38.8 to 23.3 in Book’s favor.
The point difference is what is concerning about not being able to start Book. The running game is going to be leaned upon against Florida State because of the injury. Given Florida State’s athletes, having Wimbush throw too much could spell danger. He’s only thrown a single touchdown to four interceptions. Furthermore, if Notre Dame is unable to score early, it will allow the Seminoles to hang around. The last thing you want to do is to give an underdog hope.
It is a good thing that the Seminoles have struggled, otherwise this injury to Book could have spelled an end to the Irish’s storybook season.
Thankfully, for any and all faults in Brandon Wimbush’s throwing ability, he is a winner. He’s been winning games for a year and a half. There’s no reason why that should change.