It’s Hurricanes Week!
The Fighting Irish are heading to Miami for the most important game between the two schools since the closely contested 1988 Catholics vs. Convicts game, which the Irish won. Both teams are in the hunt for a spot in the College Football Playoffs, with Notre Dame currently ranked No. 3, and Miami on the outside looking in at No. 7, so a loss here would effectively end any hope either team has at making the final cut; we know a two-loss Irish team has no shot at the playoffs, but, based on strength of schedule, neither does a one-loss Miami team. With so much at stake this week, there’s been a lot of discussion about whether this can still be considered a rivalry, especially since the two teams have met so infrequently since the true heyday of the rivalry in the late 1980s. Well, yes, and no. They certainly can’t be mentioned in the same discussion as USC, Michigan, or Michigan St., but I think for those of us that remember what the rivalry meant back in the 1980s, who remember a smug Jimmy Johnson running up the score in 1985, and who remember Notre Dame’s revenge in 1988’s Catholics vs. Convicts game, it doesn’t take much to rekindle the hatred and animosity we once had for the Miami Hurricanes, and might yet once again.
Following their 48-37 win over Wake Forest last week, the Fighting Irish maintain their #3 spot in the College Football Playoff Rankings. The Irish are looking for their third win over an AP Top 25 team this season, after defeating 11th ranked USC and 14th ranked NC State in back to back weeks. The Hurricanes enter the game undefeated following their 28-10 win over 13th ranked (in the CFPR and AP Top 25) Virginia Tech, their only Top 25 win of the season.
This will be the 26th meeting between the two schools in a series that began in 1955, a 14-0 win for the Irish. The early series was dominated by the Irish as they won thirteen of the first sixteen meetings (with one tie), before Miami won four straight from 1983 through 1987. The nearly annual series, since 1971, would come to an end following their meeting in 1990, a game the Irish won 29-20. The Fighting Irish have faced the Hurricanes just three times since that 1990 game, and the Irish have won all three, including their 33-17 win over Miami in the 2010 Sun Bowl. The Fighting Irish lead the overall series 17-7-1.
Players To Watch
Wimbush is coming off his most complete game of the season against Wake Forest, throwing for 280 yards and 1 TD and rushing for another 110 yards and 2 TDs, this despite being banged up at several points during the game; he’s shown remarkable toughness over the last few weeks, which may be just as important for the Irish going forward as improvement in his passing game may be. Wimbush had his best passing day of the season against Wake Forest, even though his completion percentage was an uninspiring 50%; he wasn’t helped in the category by several dropped balls on catchable passes, but looking beyond just that one particular stat shows a young QB who’s progressing with each passing week when it comes to making the correct reads and finding the open receiver to keep the chains moving. Wimbush has thrown for 1287 yards and 11 TDs with just 2 INTs, and has another 639 yards and 13 TDs on the ground.
After Adams left the game against Wake Forest speculation was that he was being evaluated for a concussion, but it turns out he was just suffering from headaches and with the Irish already leading 31-10 at halftime, the coaching staff likely held him out of the remainder of the game as a precaution; Adams reports that the headaches are gone, and he’ll be ready to go at Miami. This is all good news for the Irish, but seemingly bad news for Miami, who are ranked 66th in rushing defense giving up an average of 170 yards on the ground per game, a mark Adams has surpassed, or been within 11 yards of surpassing, on his own five times this season. Despite sitting out 12 full quarters this season, mostly because the Irish build up big leads early, Adams still has an astounding 1191 yards rushing and 9 rushing TDs, including a season long 84 yard rushing TD against USC.
Already having a solid season, Love turned in his best performances of the season in the last two games against NC State and Wake Forest, where he’s come up with two huge interceptions, one a 69 yard pick-six against NC State, and his interception against Wake Forest where he came up just short of registering his third pick-six of the season. Just as impressively, Love’s also registered 6 PBUs over the last two games with three against NC State and another three against Wake Forest; oh, and he was the second leading tackler for the Irish against Wake Forest with 7 Total Tackles (5 solo, 2 assisted), with 1 TFL, as well. For the season, Love is the T-5th leading tackler for the Irish with 37 (25 solo, 12 assisted), 1 TFL, 14 PBU, 17 PD, and 3 INTS, two of which have gone for touchdowns.
Players To Watch
Malik Rosier (QB)
The junior QB is a first year starter for the Hurricanes who has shown the ability to make big plays, but has also struggled with consistency, as well, which is about what you’d expect out of a first year starter. He’s somewhat of a dual-threat QB, with 295 rushing yards and 3 TDs on the season so far, but he’s done far more damage on opposing defenses through the air, throwing for 2,273 yards and 19 TDs and 7 INTS through eight games. He’s thrown for over 250 yards in six out of the eight games this season, with a season high of 356 passing yards coming two weeks ago against North Carolina, which came in a game where he only completed 42.1 percent of his throws; he’s completed 50% of his passes, or less, in three games this season, but has also had a game where he completed 75% of his passes (27 for 36 and 333 yards 3 TDs v Toledo). In his last game against Virginia Tech, he went 11 for 22 for 202 yards and 2 TDs, but also threw for 3 INTs.
Braxton Berrios (WR)
The receiving corps for the Hurricanes is led by senior Braxton Berrios who has emerged as Rosier’s favorite target this season. With 474 receiving yards and 7 TDs so far this year, he’s already doubled his previous season best when he had 232 receiving yards and 3 TDs in his freshman season.
Shaquille Quarterman (LB)
The sophomore Linebacker was a force to be reckoned with the last time these two teams met, leading the Hurricanes with 8 Total Tackles, 1 TFL, and 1 Sack, and he’s looking to exact some revenge on the Irish for their 30-27 victory in South Bend just last year. Quarterman’s currently the second leading tackler for the Hurricanes, with 47 Total Tackles (29 solo, 18 assisted), and has 4 TFL, 3 QBHs, and 2 Sacks on the season.
Fighting Irish Keys To Victory
The Irish defense had been playing lights out all season, holding each team they’ve faced to less than 20 points, but a sloppy second half against Wake Forest, where they gave up 27 points, put an end to that streak. After all but shutting down the Wake Forest offense in the first half, it’s hard to say what happened with the Irish defense in the second half, whether they let up or were simply playing not to lose, but it should go without saying that they won’t be able to afford to take a half, let alone a quarter, off against Miami. The Irish defense are at their best when they’re playing to win games, hitting hard and creating momentum swinging turnovers, and if they’re able to bring the same level of intensity that we’ve seen from them through the first eight and a half games this season against Miami, well, then the Hurricane offense is in for a serious downgrade.
Feed Josh Adams
Miami is the 66th ranked rushing defense giving up 170 yards per game, but Georgia Tech and Toledo are the only two teams they’ve faced that are even in the Top 50 rushing offenses (Georgia Tech is No. 3 and Toledo is 32nd). Imagine what a healthy, and well rested, Josh Adams will do to the Miami run defense.
Final Analysis. Two teams in a must win game in primetime, it doesn’t get any better than this. Or, at least it won’t for one of these teams this season. Miami is a good team, to be sure, but based on their schedule I’m just not convinced that they’re a great team. Notre Dame, on the other hand, went toe-to-toe with the number one team in the country and came up just one score short. And then went on to punish every team they’ve faced since then. Miami will make a few big plays to keep the game interesting, but their run defense just won’t be able to contain Adams, Wimbush, and the rest of the talented Irish backfield, and Notre Dame will run away with the game in the second half.
Final Score: Notre Dame 45 – Miami 27