CHICAGO (CBSMiami) – It’s not the Catholics vs. Convicts and there’s likely not going to be another tussle in the tunnel, but when Notre Dame and the University of Miami play at Soldier Field Saturday it will be the renewal of a once fierce rivalry.
The regular season game is the first between the two schools in almost 25 years. The last time both schools played was in the 2010 Sun Bowl when the Fighting Irish easily handled the Hurricanes, 33.17.
Between the two schools, there are 13 national championships, but neither school have been a major player on the national championship scene in years. This week’s game will feature Notre Dame looking for its first five-game winning streak since 2006 against a very young, but explosive UM team.
Officially, Notre Dame is a two touchdown favorite after handling its business against both Michigan State and Michigan earlier in the season. That’s not fazing the Hurricanes and head coach Al Golden who have a very prolific offense, and abysmal defense.
“When it’s all said and done, it’s a special day for both universities, both staffs, both football programs, and the young men that are playing,” Golden said. “I think at the end of the day both teams are going to look back at this venue, one of the storied cities in America and say, ‘This is what it’s all about. This is what college football is all about.’”
Miami’s offense has been humming on all cylinders the last few weeks behind the play of quarterback Stephen Morris. The junior quarterback has thrown for 1,002 yards in just the last two weeks against Georgia Tech and NC State.
Overall, UM is averaging 35.6 points per game and has passed for more than 1,600 yards on the young season, according to cfbstats.com. UM’s best weapon outside of Morris is freshman running back Duke Johnson who is a danger to take it all the way every time he touches the ball on offense or on special teams.
The problem for UM has been on defense. The Canes are allowing opponents to score 33.4 points per game, which makes for a lot of shootouts in each game. Miami’s defense is ranked 100th in the country when it comes to opponents scoring.
Making things worse is the chunks of yards UM is giving up to opponents. Out of 124 teams in the country, UM is ranked 116th in total defense, giving up 494.6 yards per game.
Notre Dame’s offense hasn’t been explosive, but has been proficient, converting on 42 percent of third downs. The Fighting Irish average 25.8 points per game, but if there’s been a cure for offensive ills this season, it’s been playing the Hurricanes.
Notre Dame’s defense is the strength of the team, led by linebacker Manti Te’o. The Fighting Irish allow just nine points per game to opponents and allow just 4.43 yards per play this season. Te’o’s play, even in the face of horrible loss, has even garnered Heisman discussion.
For UM to have a chance, it will have to hit some big plays early to take the decidedly pro-Notre Dame crowd at Soldier Field out of the game. The Canes will also have to figure out some way of stopping the Fighting Irish’s offense because the likelihood of the game turning into a shootout are not good given the Irish’s defensive ability.
Notre Dame and Miami will kick off at 7:30 and can be seen on NBC.