The Notre Dame Fighting Irish are going bowling. They are set to square off against the University of Miami in the 77th Hyundai Sun Bowl in El-Paso Texas on New Year’s Eve, Friday, December 31st at 2 PM EST.
The game will be broadcast nationally on CBS. It will be an event of high drama and excitement. This was not lost on the fans as tickets sold out in 21 hours making it the fastest sellout in Sun Bowl history.
The Sun Bowl is the one of the oldest bowl games (tied for second with the Sugar Bowl and the Orange Bowl) behind the Rose Bowl. The game is to be played at Sun Bowl stadium on the campus of the University of Texas El-Paso.
First year Notre Dame Coach Brian Kelly is excited about participating in the Bowl game. “We are thrilled about getting Notre Dame back to a bowl game, especially one with tradition like the Hyundai Sun Bowl,” Kelly was quoted as saying in a press conference after the bowl announcement. “Following our victory at USC, we internally targeted the Sun Bowl as a great game for us because of the national exposure the game receives and the top-notch opponent we will face in Miami.”
These two teams are no strangers as their rivalry dates back to 1955. Notre Dame leads the series 15-7-1. The Fighting Irish and the Hurricanes last faced off on Oct. 20 1990 resulting in an Irish 29-20 win. This rivalry has been reignited with three more games planned after this year’s bowl clash. The next scheduled matchup will be at Soldiers Stadium in Chicago in 2012 and then a home and home series in 2016-2017. This year’s Hyundai Sun Bowl marks the first time Notre Dame and Miami will meet in a bowl game.
Without further ado ladies and gentleman here’s the final Notre Dame Football Preview of the year.
Notre Dame Offense
The theme here for Notre Dame has been the The Replacements. (not to be confused with the 2000 football movie starring Keanu Reeves and Jon Favreau) Dynamic Freshman QB Tommy Rees (905 yards, 131.87%, 10 TD, 8 INT) has more than filled in for the injured starting QB Dayne Crist (2,033 yards, 129.34%, 15 TD, 7 INT). In fact Rees is only one TD off of the Fighting Irish rookie record of 11 TDs thrown by a freshman held by Matt LoVecchio. He has led the team to three straight victories including big wins over then #15 ranked Utah 28-3 and rival USC 20-16. In place of injured RB Armando Allen Jr. (514 yards, 4.8 yards per carry, 2 TD) RB Cierre Wood (522 yards, 4.9 yards per carry, 2 TD) came to the rescue. Wood should have an easy time running on Miami’s weak run defense.
In spite of losing WR Theo Riddick (39 receptions, 406 YDs, 2 TD) for much of the season, who will be active and the X-Factor against the Hurricanes, the sublime WR Michael Floyd (73 receptions, 916 yards, 10 TD) more than made up for the hole in the receiving corp. Floyd, in fact, is third on Notre Dame’s all-time list in receptions with 165 after 11 catches against USC. The Rees and Floyd connection will be tested against an unrelenting Miami secondary. Notre Dame’s passing attack is no pushover being ranked 29th in the country averaging 257.4 yards a game.
Injured star TE Kyle Rudolph (28 receptions, 328 yards, 3 TD) is also sorely missed for his blocking and receiving skills in the spread offense.
The Hurricane offense is helmed at the moment by QB Jacory Harris (1,765 yards, 118.28%, 14 TD, 12 INT). He replaced a fledgling Freshman QB Stephen Morris (958 yards, 117.47%, 5 TD, 8 INT) in the third quarter in the final game of the season against South Florida. Harris is shaky and inconsistent as he has 13 touchdowns and 5 INTs in his five wins and one TD and seven INTs in four losses. The team has the 49th ranked passing attack in the nation.
WR Leonard Hankerson (66 receptions, 1,085 yards, 12 TD) leads the Hurricane receiving corp. Look for Travis Benjamin (40 receptions, 699 yards, 3 TD) and his speed to be a factor against the Irish as well.
The Miami rushing attack is led by RB Damien Berry (865 yards, 4.8 yards per carry, 5 TD) and the dangerous RB Lamar Miller (633 yards, 6.1 yards per carry, 6 TD)
The team is averaging 29.1 points of offense per game this season.
Notre Dame Defense
Led by LB Manti T’eo the Irish have held opponents to 233.3 yards per game during their current three game unbeaten streak and 20 points in total after letting up 393.1 yards per game beforehand. Notre has racked up 26 sacks on the season.
The team looks forward to the return of NT Ian Williams after missing three games with an injury. He will be important in stopping the effective Miami run.
Notre Dame has an effective pass defense as well ranked 52nd in the nation with 14 interceptions.
The Hurricanes let up 19.7 points a game. Its passing defense is an impressive 2nd in the nation with 16 interceptions. The team is not as strong against the run ranked 81st in the nation. It’s a very tough and athletic squad up front notching 37 sacks. Its 8th In the country in that department.
Miami has the edge in both rushing and passing. It also has an unreliable QB and a lame duck coach in Jeff Stoutland who will coach the Hurricanes only for this one game. The Fighting Irish defense has proved its mettle against stronger teams than Miami and the addition of WR Theo Rididck will open up the Irish passing game and rushing game against a notoriously bad rushing defense for Miami. I see the Fighting Irish pulling off a very narrow victory here.
Notre Dame 24 Miami 21