Notre Dame and Miami resume a rivalry that has been very heated at times, when the two teams meet tonight at Soldier Field, Chicago, in a home away from home game for the Irish.
In the 1980s, the Irish and Hurricanes had a hot series. It got so hot that the two schools mutually decided to end it for a while because it was getting out-of-hand. One game, I remember, was labeled the "Catholics vs. the Convicts" after some Miami players had gotten into trouble with the law earlier in that season. Several times during the 1980s run, the two teams entered the game with both teams either ranked in the AP top 20 or at lease one of them ranked. One game had the Hurricanes come into South Bend ranked No. 1 and the Irish No. 2. ND prevailed in that one.
Miami enters tonight's game on somewhat of a roll. The Hurricanes opened with a win over Boston College, 41-32. Then Miami got stunned at Kansas State, losing 52-13. At that point many Miami followers and media wrote them off. Too soon.
The Hurricanes then went on a three game win streak with victories over Bethune Cookman (whatever that is), 38-10, Georgia Tech, 42-36, and last week against North Carolina State, 44-37.
In the last two games, Miami rallied to win in the final moments of each game. The Hurricanes are 3-0 in the ACC and the wins have really built the confidence of the team.
The Miami win streak was fueled by a sudden explosive passing attack led by quarterback Stephen Morris, who set a single season ACC game record with 566 passing yards and five TD tosses against North Carolina State.
Miami is also led by runningbacks Duke Johnson and Mike James. Top receivers are Phillip Dorsett and Rashawn Scott. Johnson also gets a lot of catches out of the backfield.
The two teams last played in the Sun Bowl in 2010 with ND winning, 33-17. They last played a regular season game in 1990, in which ND won, 29-20. There are two more games in the current series, home and home, in 2014 and 2015. The series has been labeled the "Shamrock Series."
ND leads the series, 16-7-1. The game will be televised nationally by NBC-TV with a 7:40 p.m. scheduled kickoff.
IRISH NOTES:The South Bend Tribune had an article earlier this week that talked about Linebacker Manti Te'o making a very positive decision to stay his senior year and forego the NFL draft. Because of his play this year, his stock in the NFL draft had skyrocketed. Te'o has battled through personal tragedy this year with the death of his long-time girlfriend and grandmother, both within 24 hours of each other. His handling of the situation was an inspiration for his teammates. Some say it inspired the defensive unit to take their play to a higher level that has resulted in the victories over Michigan State and Michigan. Another ND player whose stock went up for the NFL draft is TE Tyler Eifert. He also considered leaving ND early for the NFL draft....ND will be wearing special uniforms tonight, including a new style of pants and jerseys. ND will also be wearing multi-colored Shamrock Series helmets, which Irish fans in general don't like....ND's defense, of course, is the reason they are 4-0 entering the game and ranked ninth by the AP. The Irish are fifth nationally in turnovers gained compared to 112th last year. That stat is impressive considering the Irish lost three of its top five secondary players. The strong play of Te'o and company up front has helped the young secondary. In other defensive stats, the Irish are 29th nationally in rushing defense, ninth in pass-efficiency defense, 15th in total defense, ninth in sacks, and third in scoring defense....Miami's No. 14 passing offense is second-best on ND's schedule, and are 53rd in passing efficiency....Head coach Brian Kelly's 2013 recruiting class landed another top recruit over the break. Wide receiver Torii Hunter Jr. committed after the Michigan game. That brings the total number of commits to 21. Hunter, a 6-2 and 172-pound senior at Prosper, Tex., ranks as the 25th wide receiver in the nation according to a national ranking website. He joines three other WRs recruited by ND, Will Fuller, James Onwualu and Corey Robinson. Hunter is the son of Los Angeles Angels outfielder Torii Hunter....Kelly announced that USC transfer runningback, Amir Carlisle, will be red-shirted this year. With the move, Carlisle will have three years of eligibility starting with the 2013 season. The move was made in part because ND has a wealth of running backs this year....ND is struggling running the ball since the Purdue game and that has to change. Many feel one reason is that opposing teams stack up the front line and dare ND to pass because of the inexperience of QB Everett Golson. ND is ranked 84th in rushing out of 120 teams and down 20 rushing yards per game from 2011. They have a chance to work on the run game tonight because Miami comes into the game ranked 112th in rushing defense. ND has to get the run game on track because the next two opponents are tough on the run. Stanford is ranked third and BYU second against the run....Speaking of Golson, Kelly answered a rumor that apparently gained a lot of strength during the week that Tommy Rees was going to start tonight. Kelly said Golson will start tonight and he expects him to start all the remaining games. He said Golson is imporving each week....In my preseason picks I have the Irish winning tonight in a tough game. It will be tough since Miami is on a roll and confidence is high with three straight victories. ND has to get the offense going tonight and not rely on the defense to pull out the win. I will stick with the Irish, who should be able to mix up the running and passing attack, something they have not be able to do since the Navy game.