Notre Dame football tries to stoke the fires on a formerly heated rivalry with the Miami Hurricanes October 6th, 2012 at Soldier Field.
But make no mistake. This ain’t your father’s (or, in my case, father-in-law’s) Catholics vs. Convicts. These two once-storied programs are now just mere shadows of their former greatness.
Notre Dame holds the over-all series edge at 16-7-1, with the two most recent games (the 2010 Sun Bowl and the 1990 game) being Irish victories. I would be remiss, however, in failing to mention that for the majority of the time that this rivalry really mattered (1980 – 1990), the Canes pretty much handled the Irish. Miami won almost every year in that decade save for ’82, ’88, and ’90, a fact that my aforementioned Miami diehard father-in-law (and his daughter whom I happen to be married to) delights in touting. After the Hurricanes loss in 1990 cost them a chance at a National Championship, the series ended until meeting again in the 2010 Sun Bowl.
The two teams in 2012 are a combined 8-1, and Notre Dame is currently ranked #9 in the country. Those may both be deceiving bits of information. For example:
– Miami (4-1) has only played 1 ranked team so far this year, which resulted in a blow-out 52-13 loss to Kansas State (then ranked #21, now ranked #7). Their schedule also includes a 38-10 win over FCS Bethune-Cookman.
– Notre Dame (4-0) has played two ranked teams (then #10 Michigan State and then #18 Michigan) and won both games, but both are now absent from the top 25 rankings after bad losses. The Irish’s ranking has also been inflated due to losses by USC, Oklahoma, and Stanford, among others.
– Miami’s defense is probably the worst it has been in recent memory. The Canes are tied for 98th in the FBS giving up 33.4 points per game (39.3 if you take out the Bethune-Cookman game), and sit at 114th in total yards per game (494.6).
– Notre Dame’s offense is as anemic as it has ever been. The Irish are only scoring 25.8 points per game (T-76th), and averaging 351.3 total yards per game (95th). Even in the forgettable Charlie Weis era the Irish were still able to move the ball and score points.
This very well could be a game of the resistible force against the movable object.
Even with their recent performances, Irish and Hurricanes fans alike should have a vested interest in this rivalry picking up the steam it once had in the 1980s. When both of these teams are at the pinnacle, it is good for college football as a whole. Giving this rivalry the best chance at succeeding in that endeavor is the fact that Notre Dame joined the ACC – Miami’s conference – in all sports except football, however the Irish have agreed to play 5 ACC games every year. At worst we will get a Notre Dame-Miami game once every three years, though I imaging that these two will wind up playing more frequently than that.
My 3 Things to Watch
Stephen Morris vs. the Irish Secondary – I’m not in the habit of giving advice to the opposing teams, but if Al Golden has any sense at all, he will throw the ball every down against Notre Dame. It’s a strategy that has some real merit to it, especially against a team that has lost key players in the defensive backfield (CB Lo Wood and S Jamoris Slaughter). Irish fans might tout the fact that Notre Dame ranks 19th in pass yards surrendered this year. But look at who they’ve played so far: Navy, who throws the ball maybe 10 times a game; Michigan State, whose quarterback threw all of 51 passes before this season; and Michigan, who has Denard Robinson (I shouldn’t have to explain further). The only team that truly had the threat of a passing game – Purdue – barely lost on a last second field goal at the end of the game. Morris, who threw for an ACC-record 566 yards last week against NC State, has the potential to be the x-factor for the Canes this week.
The Irish Offense vs. the Hurricanes Defense -It must be truly painful for Miami fans to see the state of their defense this year. A program that has been renowned for that side of the ball for so long is now one of the absolute worst units this year in all of the FBS. That’s saying a lot. But the Irish have had plenty of problems moving the ball and scoring on their opponents as well. Red-shirt freshman quarterback Everett Golson has shown flashes here and there, but has been largely inconsistent. Head Coach Brian Kelly has shown no qualms about yanking Golson for Tommy “the closer” Rees when things go awry. The offense was supposed to get a nice boost with the return of running back Cierre Wood after a two-game suspension, but in his two games back, Wood has only carried the ball 17 times for 95 yards, and has yet to score a rushing touchdown.
Notre Dame’s Defense – Regardless of the Irish’s issues in the secondary, their front seven is unquestionably one of the best in the nation. They’ve registered 14 sacks (9th), are only allowing 112.5 rush yards per game (29th), and the defense as a whole has only allowed 9 points per game (3rd). Linebacker Manti Te’o has even logged two interceptions this year, the first two of his college career. These guys are going to have to get after Morris and rattle him to prevent him from carving up the young and inexperienced secondary.
My 5 Predictions
Everyone will hate the new uniforms – At the risk of sounding like a traditionalist, let’s be honest. The new uniforms – particularly the helmets – are hideous. Some will like the fact that Notre Dame is at least making an attempt at switching things up a bit, but this is the wrong way. Unfortunately, we will have to endure such changes for each game in the Shamrock Series, but we can hope that future alternate unis don’t suck nearly as bad as these do.
Stephen Morris will throw for 300+ – This isn’t so much an endorsement of Morris’ talents, or an indictment on the Irish corners and safeties as it is playing the odds. To win this game, the Hurricanes will have to attack Notre Dame at its weakest spot, and that is the secondary. This game will likely be closer than many in the media feel (more on that a little further down), but I still see Miami playing from behind in the second half, or at the very least the fourth quarter, which means they will need to throw the ball.
Rees will close the game for ND – It’s happened a few times already this season, so this really isn’t a bold prediction, but Golson will be pulled at some point, and Rees will likely bat clean up for the Irish. Especially if things get tight in the 4th.
Cierre Wood will play a larger role – The Hurricanes are giving up an ungodly 225.6 rushing yards per game to their opponents. That includes a 233 yard effort by the Bethune-Cookman Wildcats. I expect Wood, Riddick, and Atkinson to all carry the ball at certain points in the game, but the Irish need their playmaking running back to get more than 8-9 carries on Saturday. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Wood go for 130 yards and score 2 TDs.
Final Score – This is gonna be a better game than a lot of people give it credit for. Miami will keep it close, and may even take the lead early on. However, the Irish pull out the victory, 28-21.
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