How Valuable Is Ian Book To Notre Dame?

I have long criticized Ian Book. He has a track record of not showing up for big games and his stats are only look impressive because he pads them against bad teams. The fanbase on the other hand is split. Some think he is the answer and others saying 2020 will be more of the same. I decided to look through stats from last season to answer one question. Just how valuable is Ian Book?

Replacing Book

A big argument from last season was Ian Book vs Phil Jurkovec. Book is a career winner and brought Notre Dame to a playoff. However he always seems to disappear when he plays top end talent and the offense goes stagnant. Jurkovec was the high rated recruit that looked the part physically. He never played much and it was just a big game of “What if”.

So I looked through some schedules to find a team with some similar opponents. This was to see if Notre Dame replaced Ian Book would they still be competitive.

Nate Stanley

Stanley was the QB at Iowa over the last few seasons. He just finished his Senior year and is currently hoping to hear his name called on draft day. He was a good-not great QB during his time at Iowa and currently projects as the 9th or 10th best QB in the draft.

Stanley wasn’t a highly rated recruit out of high school and he never garnered much respect when compared to his Big Ten counterparts. However him and Ian Book were incredibly similar out of high school.

Star Rating
(Via 247 Sports)
National Ranking
(Via 247 Sports)
Ian Book3 Star517 Nationally
Nate Stanley3 Star531 Nationally

They were almost dead even out of high school. Book flipped to Notre Dame and had a relatively small offer sheet. The thought was Book would end up with Mike Leach until Notre Dame came calling. Stanley only had three offers out of high school. He signed at Iowa over Pitt and Wisconsin.

2019 Season

The comparisons don’t stop out of high school, the 2019 season had more similarities. Iowa and Notre Dame had three common opponents. They both faced Michigan, USC and Iowa State. Notre Dame played @ Georgia who had the number three total defense. Iowa played @ Wisconsin who had the number four total defense so I also included those two. Here is the average stats for both quarterbacks over those four games:

Book1901.3 / .555%67.8
Stanley220.51 / .7562%71

Again, the stats of both quarterbacks are incredibly close. Stanley has better passing yards, completion % and QBR. But Book has a better touchdown to interception ratio over the three common opponents and one incredibly similar opponent. Now here is a look at season stats overall for 2019:


This is where Book sets himself apart. He is better in every category and really pulls away when looking at his touchdown to interception rate. However don’t totally buy in to these stats at the surface. Book averaged just over one touchdown a game against Georgia, Michigan, USC and Iowa State. He also averaged five touchdowns a game against New Mexico, Bowling Green and Navy.

To go a step further, here is how Iowa and Notre Dame matched up when comparing the two teams. (The average recruiting class rank was from 2016-2019 according to 247 Sports.)

Total Defense
Strength Of
Avg. Recruiting
Class (’16-’19)
Notre Dame#181612.75

This shows that their strength of schedule and total defense were both incredibly close. The big outlier is the talent level on each roster. Notre Dame has some of the best roster talent in the entire country. On the other end is Iowa and they are a middle of the pack team.

This brings it all back around, how valuable is Ian Book?

Is Ian Book Replaceable?

This article started with the question of “Could Jurkovec do what Book did in 2019?”. We won’t ever have an answer to that because we can’t turn back time. But I laid all this out to make a case that either Jurkovec or even Brendon Clark could.

Ian Book is a Heisman hopeful that has a tendency to stat pad against bad teams. Nate Stanley will be lucky to get drafted and his NFL ceiling is a back up. Despite the vastly different perceptions, the players had similar seasons.

Book had better overall season stats against the slightest margin of a weaker schedule and vastly greater talent. Stanley performed better in big games despite playing with a weaker roster.

So if I had to make my best guess, yes Jurkovec could have done what Ian Book did in 2019. Losing to the two best teams on the schedule and beating USC despite only having 165 yards and one touchdown. Some will point to the game winning drive against Virginia Tech. The final drive was truly great. The problem was the performance all game that led to needing a game winning drive against an 8-5 ACC team at home.

A Look Ahead

I don’t believe any Notre Dame fan wants Ian Book to fail. He has the roster and the history that could get Notre Dame to another playoff. But to think Notre Dame couldn’t win with another QB is delusional. Book is a career winner like Brandon Wimbush was a career winner. Some of it is hitting a ceiling, some of it is coaching and some of it is a mental block.

Putting up stats similar to a former three star that will have to fight for a practice squad spot shows book is replaceable. As we all hope to see growth and improvement while talented recruits transfer out, the numbers don’t lie. Stat after stat shows a 2019 regression and a massive struggle against quality opponents. We can do nothing more than hope but 2020 feels like it will be more of the same.

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