I struggled with some of the numbers on this list.
Some numbers, like, 5 (worn by both Manti Te’o and Everett Golson) didn’t need a second thought. Some I really needed to stretch.
Notre Dame’s “ninth day of Christmas” is the former.
I could cover the nine total touchdowns Notre Dame has given up this season.
I could cover the nine total points Notre Dame’s opponents scored in the first quarter this season.
I could cover the often-overlooked contributions of Robby Toma and Louis Nix III (both No. 9s).
Or the fact that Stephon Tuitt and Kapron Lewis-Moore have a team-high nine quarterback hurries apiece.
But perhaps more important than all of those – at least in terms of who the Irish were a year ago versus who they are today – is Notre Dame’s turnover margin.
Want to draft a list of why Notre Dame is undefeated and title-bound? Put this near the top.
Notre Dame did two things this season that it didn’t do last year: It protected the ball on offense and took it away on defense.
This spring, head coach Brian Kelly stressed that “Zero is okay on first down.” When Tommy Rees and Andrew Hendrix threw interceptions in the Blue/Gold spring scrimmage, Kelly said, “We’ve seen that movie before. We gotta move past it.”
Since his two-interception performance against Michigan in Week 4, Golson has only thrown two interceptions (one against Pitt, one against Wake Forest).
Te’o alone had seven of the team’s 16 interceptions this year, meaning he had one less interception than the entire team registered in 2011.
The 2012 squad has more than compensated for the major downfall of the 2011 team.
And that’s why Miami awaits on Jan. 7.
Previously on “12 Days of Notre Dame…”
… (Only) Eight missed field goals
… Seven (opponent) passing TDs
… Six less dramatic wins
… The Golden No. 5s
… Four (uncomfortably) close games
…Three reliable running backs
…Two doubting pundits
…One Bob Diaco