Catholics vs. Convicts: Notre Dame and Miami played every season from 1971 to 1990. Miami’s 58-7 dismantling led to Notre Dame firing Gerry Faust and hiring Lou Holtz. The Hurricanes won 24-0 again in 1987. Notre Dame ended Miami’s 36-game winning streak in 1988 with a 31-30 win, en route to a National Title. Notre Dame won the last meeting 29-20. Their one previous bowl matchup was the Mirage Bowl held in Tokyo in 1979. Notre Dame won 40-15.
Coaching Change: Miami fired Randy Shannon after the Hurricanes’ disappointing 7-5 season. Interim coach Jeff Stoutland will coach the team through the bowl game before Al Golden takes over. Stoutland has named Jacory Harris the starter after Stephen Morris hurt his ankle. Buckle up.
Weather: The Sun Bowl was deceptively named this season. Some of the Hurricanes saw snow for the first time. Wind chills will be in the 20s at kickoff.
The Quarterback: Freshman Tommy Rees led Notre Dame on a three-game win streak to close the season. This could be the beginning of a bright career. It could be his last start.
For Notre Dame to Win: Establish the run. Notre Dame won’t win with Tommy Rees throwing 50 times. A more balanced attack was pivotal during their three game win streak. It’s also the key to beating Miami. The Hurricanes can pass rush with a fury and have the talent in the secondary to man up against the spread. They struggle with positioning, gap control and fighting off blocks.
For Miami to Win: Don’t turn the damn ball over. Miami has an overwhelming advantage athletically. They need to simplify the gameplan and not beat themselves with stupid plays. Don’t give Jacory Harris an option to throw a 60-yard floater.
Prediction: Notre Dame. Every rational indicator says Miami should dominate. Every rational indicator said Miami would win 10 games. I don’t trust Jacory Harris.
[Photo via @CoachBrianKelly]