The Hurricanes Seek A Program Turning Win As The Fighting Irish Rumble Towards Hard Rock Stadium
Miami Gardens, FL — The No. 7 Miami Hurricanes (8-0, 6-0 ACC) put their nation-leading 13 game win streak on the line vs. No. 3 Notre Dame (8-1). The Canes last loss came at the hands of the Fighting Irish in South Bend last year. The winner of Saturday’s matchup will have an inside track to the College Football Playoff; assuming they win out.
The Canes trail the all-time series with Notre Dame 18-7-1, however, Miami has won ﬁve straight in Miami. The all-time series is tied in games played in Miami at 6-6-1. The last time Notre Dame won in Miami was 1977. Miami has lost four straight games to Notre Dame, dating back to 1990. The last time both teams faced each other while ranked in the top-ten; No. 7 Miami knocked off then No. 1 Notre Dame, 27-10, in 1989.
The coaching matchup of Miami head coach Mark Richt, and Notre Dame head coach, Brian Kelly, will be intriguing. With a combined 44 years of head coaching experience and 400 wins between them, the result of Saturday’s primetime matchup will have huge recruiting implications.
What’s At Stake
Miami will have all the respect they need from the CFP Committee, with a victory. The Canes will more than likely jump three more spots to No. 4; as Notre Dame is No. 3, and No. 5 Oklahoma host No. 6 TCU, both with one loss already.
However, if Miami losses, it’s almost impossible for the Canes to make the Playoffs. The Hurricanes can still make their first ACC Championship game with a win Against Virginia next week.
“We’re focused on doing our job right now; we’re in this thing. We know it’s a big deal. It’s ok to be excited about it” said Richt. “…I’m not going to act like this is just another day, it’s not just another day, it’s at the end of the year, playing in a super meaningful game against a great team and I know our fans are going to be jacked up to do it. We’re happy.”
Stopping Notre Dame on the Ground
Beating the Fighting Irish means slowing down their run game, not a small task. Notre Dame brings their sixth-ranked scoring offense (41.3 pts/gm) to Hard Rock Stadium, by way of their fifth-ranked rushing attack (324.6 yds/gm). The Fighting Irish are second in the nation among non-option teams in rushing (Arizona’s 327 yds/gm).
It starts with 6-feet-2, 225 pound running back Josh Adams, a bruising back who can hit a home run from anywhere on the field. Most noteworthy, Adams leads the nation in yards per carry after contact (6.2), 60 yard plus runs (7), and third in the country with 8.7 yards per carry.
Notre Dame quarterback Brandon Wimbush has a big-time arm but isn’t a huge threat passing the ball. Wimbush only has two games this season over 200 passing yards, completing 51.3 percent of his passes.
However, the junior quarterback does most of his damage on the ground with four games over 100 yards and 13 rushing touchdowns. Wimbush is one the faster quarterbacks in college football, he can score from anywhere on the field as well.
Stopping the run has been an issue for the Canes at times this season. Miami has given up 52 runs of ten-plus yards thus far. The offensive line for Notre Dame my present they biggest challenge for the Hurricanes.
“Their offensive line, it’s one of the best in America, I don’t think many people would argue that,” Richt said. “Their left guard and left tackle could be the very first picks of the draft at their position. The center and right guard are seniors…”
Look for Miami defensive coordinator Manny Diaz to roll with stacked boxes and a lot of man coverage on the outside. Diaz loves to blitz run-first teams on first and second down, to create obvious passing situations.
“They have really committed themselves to pounding the rock this year, and for a good reason, because they have great running backs,” said Diaz. “The Adams kid is not a good player. He’s a great player. We’ll see a great player Saturday night…”
As the Turnover Chain gains popularity, the Canes have created 12 turnovers in the last three games. Generating turnovers will be crucial as Notre Dame looks to control the time of possession, keeping the Hurricanes offense off the field.
This will be 60 minute battle in the trenches Saturday night. It’s essential that Miami rotates their defensive line keeping them fresh; a more daunting task without defensive end Demetrius Jackson. Jackson is out for the remainder of the season due to a knee injury. If Miami can keep limit big run plays and win their battles outside with man coverage, the Canes will force Notre Dame to throw on Miami’s terms.
Can the Hurricanes Offense Stay Consistent?
Miami’s task on offense Saturday night is to build a lead and sustain it. The Canes most successful route to a victory is having Notre Dame throw the ball more than they don’t want to. Miami must fix their first quarter woes in to complete that task. Coming into Saturday’s matchup the Hurricanes average 3.33 points in the first quarter vs. ACC opponents.
On two separate occasions, the Canes took their opening drive inside the opponents 5-yard line, failing to score a touchdown.
Notre Dame’s defense is formidable, only giving up 18.4 points per game (17th) and 30th in rush defense (130.2 yds/gm). However, the Fighting Irish are susceptible to the pass; giving up 288.3 yards a game through the air.
Last week the Canes had their best offensive performance of the year. Miami quarterback Malik Rosier, uncharacteristically threw three interceptions; keeping the game closer than it should have been.
Obviously, Rosier needs to be careful with the football, but he’ll get his chances to make big plays as Richt will be aggressive calling more deep shots than usual.
“They have a good offense, but if you see our defense, they play lights out,” Rosier said. “I think it’s going to be a great defensive battle kind of like it was last week. We just have to come out and execute. Can’t have as many turnovers as we had and we just have to make sure we put our defense in a great situation.”
Richt will look to get his playmakers on the outside involved early. Receivers, Braxton Berrios, Ahmmon Richards, and Jeff Thomas will have opportunities to get in the end zone vs. the Notre Dame secondary. Rosier loves his tight end, Christopher Herndon, creating easy completions on the outside as well.
Equally important, Miami running back Travis Homer’s success on the ground will be crucial. With less than 20 carries in the past two games, Richt who doubles as the play caller; needs Homer to provide balance. The balance will enable Miami to have play-action and take their shots.
Prediction – Broyles Award Finalist, Manny Diaz, will figure out how to stop the Notre Dame run game, forcing the Fighting Irish to pass on Miami’s terms. Notre Dame is a three-point favorite, but that means nothing, as Miami feeds off the atmosphere provided by The Rock (Hard Rock Stadium). In conclusion, the Canes will prevail, cementing their claim as a national power.
Miami 31- Notre Dame 20