IBG – It’s Always Sunny in El Paso Edition

USC made Tommy Rees look like a freshman, can the Irish running game help prevent Miami from doing the same? (Photo - Icon SMI)

The final Irish Blogger Gathering of the season has a new twist to it.  Subway Domer hosts the last IBG of 2010, but readers are asked to weigh in this week.

Below is a survey with the questions for this week’s IBG.  Further below are my responses to them, but before getting into them, take a few minutes and fill out the survey then let me know where you disagree in the comments.

Subway Domer will be keeping track of all of the responses from the other Notre Dame blogs that make up the IBG as well.

1. What us your biggest “FEAR” going int the bowl game?

  • Tommy Rees will look like a freshman QB.
  • Our running game gets shut down
  • Jacory Harris decides he is a good player, and proves it
  • Losing to a coachless team
  • Other

For the first time since taking over Dayne Crist in the Tulsa game, Rees looked like a freshman against USC.  The USC defense tormented Rees into four turnovers and the Miami defense is just as talented.  The Miami defense may not be as disciplined, as hard as that may be to believe, but they are every bit as fast and talented.  The extra practice time should benefit Rees, but if he is asked to throw the ball as much as he was early on against USC, I’m worried he could look like a freshman again.

2. Michael Floyd & Kyle Rudolph will enter the 2011 NFL Draft

  • True
  • False
  • Floyd will, but not Rudolph
  • Other

Unfortunately, I think this is true.  Rudolph and Floyd are both rated pretty highly on draft boards.  ESPN’s Scouts Inc has Floyd rated lower than some services, but with a big bowl game performance, Floyd would catapult himself into the first round.  Rudolph is most likely going to be the most physically gifted tight end in the draft if he comes out making his early departure appear to be more likely.

3. Duval Kamara did not make the trip for personal reasons. This is very bad.

  • True
  • False

This is true for Kamara because he will not get a chance to suit up for Notre Dame one final time.  Notre Dame should be able to overcome his absence fairly easily with a healthy trio of Michael Floyd, Theo Riddick, and TJ Jones though.  Kamara had a nice close to his regular season – especially his two touchdown performance against Utah.  Sadly, this will be a disappointing end to what became a disappointing career – a career that had started with such promise in 2007.

With Kamara not an option, we may see more of freshman Daniel Smith.  The South Bend native has seen plenty of action on special teams this season, but hasn’t seen any meaningful action on offense.  He is listed in the 2-deep for the bowl game and with the possible early departure of Floyd, Smith could be groomed to be the big, physical receiver for this offense.

4. Which senior will have the bigger game?

  • Brian Smith
  • Harrison Smith
  • Robert Hughes
  • Ian William
  • Other

I originally answered Brian Smith here when I answered the survey on Subway Domer, but on second thought, I might change my answer to Robert Hughes.  The proverbial “light switch” turned on for Hughes in that USC game and for one half of football, we saw the running back we all envisioned from Hughes.  Brian Kelly has said multiple times that they need to protect Rees in the bowl game and the best way to do that is with a power running game led by Hughes.

As for Smith, his light switch came on weeks ago and he has been a different player.  He is the one senior on the team that I think cares most about going out on a high note.   The Irish defense has been outstanding since the Navy game and Smith has been a major reason for that.

It would be nice to see Ian Williams go out on a high note too, but after missing the final four games of the season and not playing since Navy, it is going to be tough for the Florida native to jump right back in.  Before his injury, Williams was the MVP of the defense.

5. Vegas has the Irish as a 3 point dog….

  • That’s about right
  • They are horribly mistaken

This seems about right.  For as strong as Notre Dame closed the season, this is still a team with a freshman QB with losses to Navy and Tulsa on its resume this year.  On paper, Miami has more talent and speed.  Notre Dame is the stronger team at this point though and comes into the game with much more momentum.  How well Notre Dame maintains that momentum with a month off , however, remains to be seen.

6. Does Notre Dame NEED this bowl win for a good start to 2011

  • Yes
  • No

Yes, but more so for recruiting than a good start to 2011.  Notre Dame lost the Independence Bowl in Bob Davie’s first season in 1997 and then started off the 1998 season with a upset over Michigan so a bowl win or loss doesn’t always carry over to the next season.  From a recruiting standpoint, however, Notre Dame really NEEDS this game.  A win would give Notre Dame a four game winning streak with wins over USC and Miami to end the season and would show recruits Notre Dame is headed in the right direction.

Notre Dame has several highly touted recruits left on their board for this season – especially on defense.  Ishaq Williams, Brennan Scarlett, and Troy Niklas are three defensive recruits left that would be excellent additions to this class.  A strong close to this year’s class is essential for not just 2011, but for 2012, 2013, and 2014.

7. Notre Dame will

  • Win big
  • Win close
  • Lose big
  • Lose close
  • Other

I think Notre Dame will win this one close.  After where Notre Dame has come from after the Tulsa loss, they are a team that is much more excited to be where they are at.  In late October it didn’t look like the Irish would be bowling at all, let alone in a bowl on New Year’s Eve against Miami.  On the other hand, Miami has had a disappointing season and lost their head coach.  That is usually a recipe for a let down in a bowl game.  See Notre Dame/2004 Inisght.com bowl.   The key for Notre Dame will be to come out early and make sure Miami doesn’t get any momentum.

If Notre Dame controls the game early and is physical with Miami, the Irish should be in good position to win this game.  If they let Miami come out and hit a few plays early and build confidence, things could get tricky.  In the end, I like Brian Kelly’s ability to coach his team to a bowl victory over an interim coach’s ability to do the same.

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  1. I was there at past ND games.
    I remember all too well.
    Call me supersticious, but I had the Catholic Versus Convicts shirt,
    the rosary, the prayers going on, the venom against the evil thugs from Northern Cuba/ Coral Gables and I won’t apologize for my politically incorrect or hate of the orange and puke green and that damned bird mascot.
    Hate of USC and the “U” the undesirables? GOOD.
    Beating both and turning a season around–??? PRICELESS!!!

    lets Go ND -2011 and future SHOULD BE BRIGHT–no talk-just action–
    do it!!!
    PROUD OF YOU IRISH!!!!!!!!!!!

    1. No worries. Great game to watch.

      Let’s hope the boys all come back in 2011 and have a great season.

      There is so much to winning games in college football. The Irish, Friday, played a full game and a great game for the entire game. Good work! Great game!

  2. Tea,

    I respect your opinion and you make great points I missed. I totally forgot about that FSU game. I think if you force Jacory to drive the legnth of the field ND defense is good enough. If Rees turns the football over like he did against USC, ND is in trouble b/c Jacory is a better QB than Mustain and will hit the big play. The game pivots on whether or not Jacory has a good game. If he throws dumb pick which he is prone to do, I think ND wins. If he plays lights out ND loses. I however think the corners Walls, Gray and Blanton do match up well against the Miami receivers.

  3. I’m excited. It will be an interesting matchup. The folks in Florida are so tired of this Miami team that expectations are that ND will beat them handily.

    Having said that, I would love to see it. There are some seniors that came into the program thinking that they’d turn it around. That didn’t quite happen. This season was a constant struggle but I am happy they beat SC and are now playing Miami. It would be nice to see them knock Miami out.

    So, my prediction is this: if Hughes — or another back — steps up the way that he did in LA, we’ll win this game handily. Miami is just not that good. I know people talk about their athleticism. I saw them get knocked out early in the season by Ohio State. I saw them get beat by a fair South Florida team. They’re very beatable. And we are rolling a bit right now defensively.

    So, I see Seantrell Henderson watching Brian Kelly, Tommy Rees and the gang from South Bend celebrating at the Sun.

    Notre Dame 31
    Miami 20

  4. I don’t see ND beating Miami in this match up. I see the defense stepping up and keeping the game close, however I will point out a couple of areas where I think ND is going to have trouble.

    Miami’s secondary is the best ND has seen all year and I think Rees is going to turn the ball over in ND territory.

    Miami’s D-line is the best ND has seen and will limit the run, which will put Rees in 3rd and long situations where he can throw picks.

    Miami has a stud returner and ND has struggled with punt coverage and kick off coverage. The Tulsa game comes to mind.

    My prediction will be:

    Notre Dame 20
    Miam 24

    Turn overs and a special teams big play will cost the Irish.

    1. As Billy Joel once said, you may be right — I may be crazy. But I saw Florida State put up 40+ against this secondary. It may have been unusual — and FSU may be great – but it seems that we can toss short passes for 5-7 yards a clip and score on these guys.

      The key will be our defense. Can we contain them all day long. Jacory is a decent QB who has a talented group protecting him. Can we contain him? Will our defensive guys and our special teams show up and play their best today.

      If we do, we put up enough points and beat these guys. I know, that is sort of like saying “If we score more points than they do, we win.” But I think that our defense, led by Manti the Monster, which has really improved in the last several games, contains Harris and the Canes.

  5. I am up in the air on the outcome. On paper, Miami is more talented, has more speed, etc. However, as Tulsa and Navy proved, those two ingredients don’t always equate to wins.

    I think this month off will help Rees. IF ND sticks with the game plan it had against USC, I see them winning. However, if Rees is forced to throw 40 times, that’s a sure sign of zero running game. At which point, Miami will be in total control.

    I agree with the voters, this game is HUGE for recruiting. ND needs more talent to surround Teo and a gamebreaker at RB. If they can solidify those areas at signing day, I’ll feel better about the future.

    Okay, enough rambling, I’ll throw my prediction out there.

    Notre Dame 27
    Miami 17

  6. Close win by the Irish! I also see both Floyd and Rudolph coming back next year and both because of prior injury issues. Miami QB is also very suspect to turnovers when heat is applied which I expect the Irish to do often. Rees is indeed a freshman but he is just the type of kid to seize the opportunity and shine. With 4 games under his belt and an uncanny cool demeanor – he will be the game changer. GO IRISH!

  7. Tough call, I only saw Miami once, and that was a total physical domination of Pitt at Heinz Field. Maybe they will punk out, but I could see them athletically causing Rees to repeat the USC turnover debacle.

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