Saturday night, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish take on the Miami (FL) Hurricanes at Soldier Field in Chicago. Z.W. Martin, SBN Chicago's resident ND reporter, and Paige, a Hurricane grad, preview the contest. Shit is thrown. Things are learned. Everybody wins (except Miami (FL) on Saturday.)
I'm holding a grudge against this game. I've been planning on attending this game since I found out it existed. I called the Miami ticket office 5+ times, the Notre Dame ticket office (in a moment of desperation only), the Soldier Field ticket office, and I checked Ticketmaster everyday from May through August (I WISH I was exaggerating). Apparently tickets just never went on sale to the general public. I'm actually not even sure that's the case, but I'm just too exhausted to inquire any further.
I'm nervous for this game (as I ought to be, so I don't know why I am saying it like it is some sort of revelation). But I was nervous for the NC State game last week too (which was not as much of an overreaction in retrospect as I thought it was at the time). And I'm sure I'll even be nervous when we play Duke (though they're actually 4-1 right now, so that snark might come back to mock me later in the season). For this game though, I should be nervous.
So far this season we've only played one other ranked team and I think everyone who has ever read anything about college football knows how that ended up. Miami got routed by KState in a 52-13 embarrassment. At that time KState was #17 and Miami was unranked. Well, Miami is still unranked and Notre Dame is #9. So yeah, nervous. Now to actually make a point relating the Miami-KState game to the Miami-ND game -- Linebacker Arthur Brown, who actually played his first two seasons with the Hurricanes, really disrupted our offense. He had 10 tackles, a fumble recovery, and a bunch of other cool stuff that makes it easy for linebacker to be my favorite position. Arthur Brown is good, Manti Te'o is great. Te'o and the 3rd ranked Irish D have yet to allow a rushing TD, even AFTER playing Denard Robinson, and although Miami has made some huge, game-winning plays through the air, Te'o already has 3 INT in a very young season. So yeah, nervous.
But I do believe in my boys. So nervous, yeah. Hopeless? Nah. Aside from our loss in Manhattan, Kansas, Miami has put up almost 40+ points in our 4 wins. Sure we may have had to in order to actually win those games, but at least we know, when the win is on the line and the other offense isn't being slowed down, we can still keep up. We're going to have to aim for those numbers again to put any points on the board against Notre Dame's defense, so at least we know they're achievable. This isn't a case of keeping up with Notre Dame's offense because our defense can't hold them (which could potentially happen, of course), this is more about capitalizing on every scoring opportunity, because I worry there won't be many. Against GaTech and NC State, Stephen Morris was given time after the snap and when he was under pressure he made moves to keep the play alive. At 6:21 he avoids a being sacked and throws a 62-yard bomb to Phillip Dorsett. Our rushing game was definitely stifled by NC State (yes, I know it's NC State and not Notre Dame), but Stephen Morris just put 566 yards in the air instead. The 62-yard TD pass wasn't even his longest of the game. Our receivers are scrappy, they find a way to get open for Morris (like Dorsett above -- he got behind 4 (I think) defensive players and was wide open for the pass), and even when they aren't wide open, or open at all, Morris can still put it in their hands (5:21 in the link above).
I was reading that thing above you wrote and I was like, huh, maybe Miami (FL) isn't all bad. They're 4-1 with a legit, dynamic quarterback. Then I looked deeper and realized their four wins have come against the following opponents: Boston College, Bethune Cookman, Georgia Tech and NC State. Those teams have a 9-10 combined record, of which only two wins have come against D1 schools: Connecticut and Virginia. That's... pretty terrible.
I was also blown away by the amount of points they have given up: 32, 52, 10 (Bethune Cookman), 36 and 37. Where have all the Ed Reeds gone? There was a time in my life when The U was a thing. I don't think that exists anymore. The white people won. White people are the worst.
It's interesting, I too had a similar experience with not getting tickets for this game, but instead of hounding ticket sales folk, my ND Athletic Board member friend totally got bombarded with ticket requests at the last second by his family, so I was left in the lurch. (Such a Notre Dame tale, isn't it?) So now, I have to, like, maybe pay over face and sit with Convicts or watch it at a bar. How uncouth.
Anyway, I should probably talk about the game, right? I like the respect you gave Te'o, but the real fear should be of the Irish's front four. They are physical, fast and sport shiny four and five star recruiting evaluations. This group is the reason Notre Dame -- and Te'o -- keep picking off the world. Almost every interception has been thrown under extreme pressure, which leads me to the the biggest question I have for you: How is the Hurricane O-line? If they are average, this will not be a contest. Julius Peppers 2.0, Stephon Tuitt, already has six sacks and is backed up by a group of linebackers second only to Alabama and maybe LSU. If Miami couldn't run against NC State, then their outlook is not so good against the Irish. My one fear is Morris' ability to avoid pressure and make plays when there doesn't seem to be one to make. On the other hand, Robinson was supposed to do that, too, and ND turned him into Tony Romo. But (I'm conflicted), Morris is, like, an actual QB, so I do not expect the same poor decision making.
Also, please elaborate on the sieve that is the Hurricane defense.
Before I started discussing Miami's defense, let me start with a few quick hits in response (they're never actually quick):
I'm really not deluding myself for this game. I don't think I can relive the KState loss. I don't think I can pull off vodka tears again. I'm just trying to shine a very bright light on Miami's strengths -- Morris' moves, the receiving corps, ...other stuff. You'll have to bear with me when I get to the defense's "Pros" list. I'm not looking to lose any bets (sup, B). I know who we've played, I know what they've scored. But, I went deep and looked at Notre Dame's ESPN page too. Notre Dame beat Navy, Purdue (don't try to tell me, "Purdue is actually good this season"), MSU (Bell and Maxwell have been lackluster against lesser teams), and Michigan (This team was over-ranked going into this season, I don't know that they should have even been in the top 25 going into that game. I think I'd have a lot of questions answered if I could know the outcome of a 2012 Miami-Michigan game.)
I really wanted to say that "stifled" was a strong word to use about NC State against our run game and blame it on less carries, but not quite the case. It was just much more effective against GaTech the week before -- Mike James had 15 carries for 89 yards and 3 TDs, including 1 to win the game in OT. But Duke Johnson still had a rushing TD in last Saturday's game. He's been inconsistent, but I think he could be a game-changer this week. If he poses a threat and draws in D, Stephen Morris can always put it in the air to hit the receiver who's going to be open down field.
I would say our O-line is maybe (/not) above average. Art Kehoe, who has 5 Miami 'ship rings as staff, is back for his second season as offensive line coach and our QBs have been getting more time and our offense has been getting more efficient. True freshman Ereck Flowers has been lauded as the substitute for Seantrel Henderson. Although Henderson could be back this week, he won't necessarily start. Morris has definitely been getting the time he needs make and create plays. Our O-line was clearly unprepared for Arthur Brown. Now, even if they'd be prepared for Arthur Brown, they're probably still unprepared for this game.
Our defense is bad. Badbadbad. I don't want to say it, because it is such a go-to excuse, but they're young. Al Golden wouldn't settle for that excuse though. Some noteworthy bits: Against GT, Miami was down 36-22 going into the 4th and Miami's D kept the Jackets from scoring again (FOR ONE, WHOLE QUARTER!), allowing the offense to tie it up, and take the game to overtime. In OT, Miami's 4th-and-1 stop brought our offense on the field for the game winning play. Against NC State, Miami took the ball away five times! Brandon McGee literally took the ball out of NC State's arms on our goal line. Our offense just didn't capitalize on those TOs until the final INT which resulted in our game-winning play with 19 seconds left. Our defense does have holes, but your offense is low-scoring (Navy aside) and unthreatening (speaking of not converting TOs into points), to be honest. I think our high-scoring offense will find points, especially if our defense can continue get us even more opportunities by taking the ball away (maybe I AM deluding myself).
This conversation has been awfully civil. I really thought there'd be more of me saying, "U still mad about 1985, brah?" My dad, a Miami alum, taught me to hate Notre Dame maybe even before he taught me to hate Florida State. He always told me that after Miami trashed ND 58-7 in '85, Notre Dame was too scared to play in '86 and canceled their meeting. Typical bedtime stories.
The thing is, I LOVE, er, LOVED The U. (The 30 For 30 was epic.) What it meant. How it changed college sports. I miss dancing after touchdowns. I miss 37 unsportsmanlike conduct flags per quarter. I miss rappers on the sideline. I miss the swag. It's a shame that no longer exists. However, more importantly as an Irish fan, Miami (FL) is just a speck of "remember when" for Notre Dame. Beg as Miami fans seem to, the Hurricanes aren't a rival. They are a fun thing to talk about: Catholics vs. Convicts! Weeeee!!! It reminds me of my time at Miami (OH) when Ohio fans would get all pissy when we'd play them in sports. Nobody cared. Except them. It was actually kind of sad.
(You mentioned 1985. I only remember the 1988 contest for some reason.)
Back to the game.... You are right: The Irish offense has not taken advantage of the opportunities their defense has created. I think a lot of that has to do with Coach Brian Kelly's play calling (extremely conservative) based on how dominate the ND defense has been. He has either had a redshirt Freshman (Everett Golson) or a weak armed nancy boy (Tommy Rees) at QB. Kelly's offense is best when it is led by a mobile quarterback who can throw down field. Golson personifies both, but has shown he is not ready for full-time use yet. Unfortunately, Rees will take the Irish nowhere because he lacks fundamental D1 skill. Regardless of who is behind center, the only thing they have to do is be Jim Miller and not turn the ball over.
Advanced stats indicate the Irish offense is actually very efficient, ranking in the top 30 nationally. The issue has been the lack of big plays. Tyler Eifer, who will probably be the first tight end taken in the NFL draft, is the Irish's best big play option. He has disappeared over the last two weeks. Teams are simply taking him away with bracketed coverage and with it, the Notre Dame offense has struggled. The wideouts have been solid, but very ordinary. They are either young or diminutive in size. Nobody has stepped up. I super miss Michael Floyd.
The Irish running game has the potential to be special. The three headed mini-monster of Theo Riddick, Cierre Wood and George Atkinson III are all backs with 4.4 speed, each possessing rather nasty cutback skills. Notre Dame is averaging over 140 yards a game on the ground and I expect them to be super run heavy early. Unfortunately, Wood's, the most talented of the backs and my second favorite Irish player, touches have been limited because of an early suspension. (Probably weed.) I hope they #FreeWood and let him be the special player he is.
Oh, I just remembered your Catholics are wearing those stupid Adidas uniforms for this game. We have so much to talk about.
Also, shouldn't we do some kind of shout out to Miami (SHOULDN'T REQUIRE A STATE ABBREVIATION) vs. Miami (OH).
If you want to be schooled in a history lesson, yes we can.
History? Because it's old? It's in Ohio. It automatically loses.
Yes, ND is wearing those unfortunate uniforms that I have unseen through shock therapy. They are dumb and reek of Randy Fucking Edsall. Never again.
I shouldn't have mentioned I attended Miami (OH). The thing is, myMiami (inside joke!) was founded in 1809 when the penis that you call a state was still under Spanish rule. Not until 1845 was Florida even allowed into the Union as the 27th and most miserable state, quickly establishing its most vital imports as grandparents and raft people, while stringing up jorts and calling it their state flag. A short 80 years later the University of Miami was founded. The idea that Miami (FL) shouldn't put its state in parentheses is fucking ludicrous. If it wasn't for some boisterous teams in the 80s, Miami (FL) would still be the school not in Gainesville or Tallahassee. Get a fucking grip.
PS I would never defend the shithole that is Ohio. Oxford is not in Ohio by all first hand accounts.
This is awkward because I didn't mean for it to turn into an argument over whether Miami (THE U) should have a state abbreviation in parens, although I of course egged that on. I was just ready to argue over which Miami was better: the better Miami or the one in Ohio. When I talk about college I get to say things like, "When I would lay out at the pool in between classes" and "When I bought beer...IN THE ORANGE BOWL."
But since you clearly did some research for your American history lesson, I don't want that to go to waste. Putting a state in brackets shouldn't be decided by the year a college was founded or a state that the college is in became part of our country. This isn't distinguishing Miami from Miami in a textbook. Who cares if Miami (OH) was founded first? The only thing people associate when Miami scrolls across an ESPN ticker is five National Championships. Otherwise turn to PBS. This is about athletic notoriety, and the boys in green and orange are more nationally renowned (whether still deserved or not) than red.
This is probably my favorite thing when debating stupid football shit regarding the RedHawks (Redskins):
2003 was the only year Oxford cared about football and look at that. Awwww. For us, football was really not a thing. If you were from Ohio, you rooted for the dumb tOSU. If you were from Michigan, the lame Wolverines Etc. Or if you were like me; Catholic and from Chicago, Notre Dame.
Miami (OH) people cared about booze, drugs and sex. And hockey. We liked hockey, too. Outside of that, Miami (OH) was a wonderful place for people like me: a boy. The culture was great/terrible for girls. Party all the time and casually sleep with women who are pressured into being skinny, tan and slutty. Girlfriends were completely optional. No pressure. Enjoy the ride. It was a true college town with the social life of Chicago or New York.
As for Miami, FL. I've been there. Other than it being warm during winter, nothing appealed. It's the epitome of doucheville. Clubs, v-necks, chains and greasy hair. Tampa's almost classier.
Also, five National Championships? Haha. When you get to ten call South Bend. Notre Dame may spot you the last one.
Wow, booze, drugs and sex??!! Miami (OH) is SO...just like every other college. Miami, FL isn't a traditional college town, which, most of all, is the thing I wish was different. But I made it my college town. I didn't party in the clubs (after my freshman year, after making out with too many strangers on dance floors, I got a better fake ID) and I didn't hang out with guys in v-necks (unless they were gay). Why am I not surprised that you think of "doucheville" when you think of Miami -- takes one to know one, right? (Awwww, I kid...I kid?) South Beach was not my college town, Coral Gables was -- where bars sell 32 oz beers, there are no dress codes or covers charges at the door, where I never missed a 2 for 1 Monday night drink special, and where our house parties were 200 of my closest friends. I chose Miami over every other university because I decided I'd rather be a Miami Hurricane than a Fighting Terrier, an Orangeman, a Colonial, even a Wolverine. The booze, drugs and sex were all just a bonus.
Miami is not going to be the LeBron James to ND's Michael Jordan. This section isn't about Miami vs. ND, we're talking Miami vs. Miami, so that eleven championships argument is completely moot (/Lawyered).
Yeah. College is college. Reading it again, I did totes come off as a bit of a doucheturd. Anyway... lets move it to predictions. Since you're our guest, I will let you Rock The Casbah first.
This is going to be a low scoring game. I was glad to learn a little bit more about the Irish O, but I'm not convinced. It sounds like a lot of potential and a lot of "this guy is good, BUT..." Miami's D is weak, I know this, my religion is Realism, but this match up doesn't concern me (ND O v. Miami D). I think Miami can force turnovers against this offense and I think they'll look better than they have (whether they actually look good or Notre Dame makes them look good).
Miami's O has been putting up big numbers to make up for our D, but I don't think they have to worry about that here. Focusing on making big, scoring plays, even if only a few, is key. This isn't about going score-for-score, it is just about scoring. Taking advantage of every opportunity. Morris is agile and makes good decisions, but this Irish D is no joke. Morris may be able to keep plays alive, but in this game, who cares about keeping the play alive, if there isn't even a play to be made against this defense.
NONETHELESS, I'm picking Miami. ESPN has ND favored (DUH), but with the spread at 13. That seems high to me. I'm thinking low scoring and kinda tight. If ND covers that spread, I'm thinking that it will be because our offense could not get ANYTHING going and the final score is something like 17-3 or 14-0, ND. But, I AM PICKING MIAMI, so final final final prediction -- 20-17, Miami*. Rereading this, I sound crazy, but I'm a Mets fan for life, so believing has become a full-time job.
*I JUST checked Chicago's weather for Saturday -- we're fucked. Neutral field bullshit.
Funny story -- on that Football Outsiders chart you sent me, yeah that one, they list "Miami" (at #43 -- although rank is irrelevant in this story) and "Miami (Ohio)" (#66). Jus' sayin'.
I think you're misjudging the ND offense and the Miami (FL) defense. This will be the second worst defense the Irish have faced all year, the first being Navy, natch. However, I think you're right about potential and all that jazz. However (again), Notre Dame has had two weeks to prepare for this game and I really think Miami (FL) is in a lot of trouble defensively. Simply -- and it's weird saying -- ND has better athletes everywhere.
It should be noted that I am actually somewhat nervous about this game. The Hurricanes can really score and will push the Irish defense more than any team to this point. Also, the Irish have a recent tradition of blowing everything whenever they seem to be getting over the hump. Football is weird and anything can happen, but I have to stick with my boys here.
Notre Dame 31, Miami (FL) 24