Notre Dame is playing in the headline game of the week as they travel to Miami to take on the undefeated 7th ranked Hurricanes. A win and Notre Dame is likely in the driver’s seat for one of the four spots in the College Football Playoffs. A loss and a lot of old storylines will resurface surrounding Notre Dame’s ability to win the big game. So which narrative will be hearing on Sunday? Let’s find out.
What Concerns Me This Weekend
The health of the Notre Dame running backs. Can we get through this weekend with the backfield in tact? Too many times this year Notre Dame has entered a game with four healthy backs only to end it with two or less. Obviously Notre Dame needs Josh Adams back at 100% in this one, but they’re also going to need Tony Jones and Dexter Williams back too. Deon McIntosh has been Mr. Reliable this year but Notre Dame needs all four in this one.
The hype surrounding this game. Normally I don’t worry about the hype too much, but then I saw Notre Dame’s #BeatCanes video earlier this week and I started to get worried. I’m sure many of you will just dismiss something like that, but I don’t like seeing something like that during a big game week. It probably only took a few minutes of time to film, but that’s still too much time during a week like this for my liking. Hopefully the team remains grounded this week and doesn’t buy into it all, but by making a video like that, Notre Dame opened itself up to some questions should they not take care of business down in South Beach this week.
Miami’s pass defense. Notre Dame’s passing game is improving but it’s still a work in progress and Miami is one of the best defenses in the country in yards allowed per attempt. The Hurricanes are good at keeping things in front of them while Notre Dame’s short passing game has struggled compared to its downfield attack. In Notre Dame’s only other big road game of the year – Michigan State – Brandon Wimbush had one of his best games of the year passing the football and he threw for a career high 280 yards last week. That said, Miami’s pass defense is a different level than Wake Forest’s. If Wimbush and the Irish passing game hit a few plays early, I’ll be much, much less concerned.
Notre Dame’s pass defense. Notre Dame’s pass defense has been on its heels a bit the last two weekends. Both NC State and Wake Forest attacked the Notre Dame pass defense with the short passing game. At times the Irish defense looked great by jumping the short routes, but both were still able to rack up the yards. Miami’s passing offense has better athletes and they have the speed to get behind the Notre Dame defense. Miami wide receiver Braxton Berrios is good at working the middle of the field and could hurt the Irish defense if given too much space.
Everyone picking Notre Dame. I hate when all of the experts pick Notre Dame in a game like this. Just never makes me comfortable when the Irish a road favorite in a big game. It’s paranoia, I know, but it still worries me.
What Doesn’t Concern Me This Weekend
Notre Dame’s ability to run the ball. If NC State couldn’t slow down the Notre Dame running game, Miami isn’t going to. Miami reminds me of a USC type team. If Notre Dame comes out early and hits them in the mouth and just continues to do it throughout the game, they will eventually wilt. Miami is undefeated and living high right now but they have not faced a team like Notre Dame so far this year. They’ve faced some teams that can run the ball like Georgia Tech but they are a whole other beast. Notre Dame will run it right at Miami and they will have success doing it.
Notre Dame’s run defense. Until the Wake Forest game, Notre Dame’s run defense was trending towards being one of the best in the country. Then Wake Forest ran for over 200 yards on Notre Dame last weekend. Brian Kelly hinted that there were some distractions last week and that he was confident that his defense would prepare better this week. I think we’ll see the Notre Dame run defense rebound this weekend.
Miami going tempo. The obvious concern this week would be Miami going tempo after seeing what Wake Forest did to Notre Dame with it last weekend. The problem for Miami if they attempt that is, they aren’t really a tempo team. They haven’t really done it much at all this year outside of its two minute offense so if they try to do it a lot this weekend just because it worked for Wake, they’ll be trying to be something they aren’t and that could actually just play right into Notre Dame’s hands.
Notre Dame’s pass rush. Notre Dame doesn’t have Jarron Jones to be a one man wrecking crew against Miami again this year but remember how well Notre Dame got in the Miami backfield last year? They did that with a patchwork defense after the firing of Brian Vangorder. Mike Elko’s defense has been light years ahead of last year’s unit and I have a feeling we are going to see the Irish defense really dial up the pressure this weekend.
Players to Watch
- Kevin Stepherson – Stepherson had a field day against Miami last year and he has been getting better and better each week. Notre Dame needs a big pass play this week to loosen up the Miami defense and Stepherson is their home run threat. Add in Stepherson’s Florida roots and you have the makings of a big game from Stepherson.
- Nick Watkins – Kelly says that he is healthy for this weekend, but he looked a bit hobbled last weekend and gave way to Troy Pride Jr for much of the game. When healthy, Watkins has been dynamite for Notre Dame this year.
- Alize Mack – He is back this weekend and he has yet to have a breakout game. Last week it was Claypool, could it be Mackk this week?
- Daelin Hayes – Notre Dame needs the pass rush this weekend and Hayes has been a little quiet the last few weeks.
- Josh Adams – Need to see #33Trucking to get back on track this weekend with a big game. Adams is said to be 100% this weekend. Last year he broke free for a 41 yard touchdown after Notre Dame surrendered the lead. He only had 12 carries last year against the Canes but they went for 94 yards. He needs more than 12 carries this year.
- Chase Claypool – How will he build on his breakout 9 catch, 180 yard performance from a week ago?
- Jerry Tillery – It’s been a quiet few weeks for Jerry Tillery. Notre Dame beat Miami last year in large part because Jarron Jones was superhuman that afternoon. Can Tillery step up this weekend and have anything close to a similar outing?
How Did I Do Last Weekend
Not that well. For the first time this year I predicted a blowout and the game ended up looking a lot closer on the scoreboard than it did on the field. I was worried about Wake Forest knowing too much about Mike Elko’s defenses but never saw them putting up the kind of yards that they did. Notre Dame also let a lot of points on the field that allowed the score to look closer, but still, not a great prediction on my part last weekend.
In the preseason I saw this as a win for Notre Dame even though some had penciled it in as a loss. Why? Because even during the trainwreck that was the 2016 season, Notre Dame found a way to beat Miami. In fact, the last time Notre Dame a one possession football game? October 29, 2016 against Miami. The last time before that? November 21, 2015 in Fenway Park.
I’ve been back and forth on this one all week. Monday I felt like Notre Dame could very well lose this game. As the week as wore on though, I’ve started to feel better and better about the game. Last weekend I went all in on the Irish and predicted a blowout for the first time this year and obviously jinxed them, so I’m a bit worried about making the following prediction, but here goes. I think we will see a game very similar to the 2012 Oklahoma road game. It’ll be close throughout the game but Notre Dame will keep running the football and eventually, will wear Miami down and pull away in the 4th quarter. Irish add a late touchdown to make this one look not as close as it actually was.
Prediction: Notre Dame 38, Miami 24
Preseason Prediction: Notre Dame 31, Miami 27
|Game||Pre-Season||Game Week||Actual Outcome|
|Week 11||ND 49-17||ND 45-24|
|Week 10: Miami||ND 31-27||ND 38-24||UM 41-8|
|Week 9: Wake Forest||ND 34-24||ND 42-13||ND 48-37|
|Week 8: #14 NC State||ND 34-17||ND 34-24||ND 35-14|
|Week 7: #21 USC||USC 38-24||ND 34-31||ND 49-14|
|Week 6: North Carolina||ND 31-21||ND 41-17||ND 33-10|
|Week 5: Miami OH||ND 42-17||ND 49-13||ND 52-17|
|Week 4: #16 Michigan State||ND 24-13||ND 30-28||ND 38-18|
|Week 3: Boston College||ND 35-10||ND 35-10||ND 49-20|
|Week 2: #3 Georgia||UGA 29-27||UGA 29-27||UGA 20-19|
|Week 1: Temple||ND 31-21||ND 31-21||ND 49-16|