FBS Independents Spotlight: Notre Dame v. The U

UMass, Army and BYU are all playing this week, but they’re just going to have to get comfortable in the backseat. This week’s biggest college football game is between two historic programs in #3 Notre Dame and #7 Miami. Because of the playoff implications surrounding this primetime game, I’m zeroing in on the Catholics vs. Convicts.

Just to recap last week, ND is coming off a rainy win against Wake Forest where their defense simply didn’t look that great throughout. The Demon Deacons were able to gain 587 yards on the Irish, while hanging 37 points. However, it wasn’t all bad. The Irish put up over 700 (!) yards of total offense. Most of the charge was led by Brandon Wimbush (below), who passed for a career-high 280 yards with a touchdown.

He gave Irish fans everywhere a bit of a scare on a run towards the end zone at the very end of the first half, but seemed to be just fine upon returning to the game.

Also, Josh Adams (featured) took a blow to the head while blocking on a Wimbush run, which put him in concussion protocol. It sounds like both guys will be ready to go this week, however.

Moving on to this week’s game, most would argue that The U is the best team Notre Dame has faced since Georgia early in the season. The Hurricanes are a really, really complete team. They’ve blown teams out, and they’ve managed to come back when it counts thanks to the heroics of Malik Rosier (below).

#12 is an interesting case, because when he’s on, there are few better. Him and Braxton Berrios (36 catches, 474 yards, 7 touchdowns) more or less beat Florida State earlier this year by themselves. However, he’s dealt with some ugly games this year – just last week, he only completed half of his 22 pass attempts with three interceptions. He’s only completed 56.2% of his passes on the season.

Aside from Rosier and Berrios, the ‘Canes are paced by Travis Homer (612 yards, 6 touchdowns) out of the backfield, after losing junior Mark Walton for the year due to injury. All in all, the undefeated Hurricanes up up 31.5 points per game and over 460 yards of total offense.

The most notable thing they’ve been known for this season has absolutely been their turnover chain. I guarantee you’ve seen it on just about every college football montage.

miami-malek-young

They’ve definitely been wearing it a lot. In 8 games, Miami has forced a ridiculous 20 turnovers; 13 interceptions and 7 fumbles (Michael Jackson has the most, with 4). They give up about 367 yards per game, and only 18 points per game. This defense is legit, and they are extremely dangerous, especially at home.

This all being said, Notre Dame is still a road favorite by 3.5 points. And they have enough firepower to win this game. The U gives up 170 yards per game on the ground, which is good for 66th in the entire country. While The U’s secondary is other-wordly, it’s not like Notre Dame relies on their ariel attack. Wimbush and Adams are enough, but throwing in Dexter WilliamsTony Jones Jr. and the upstart Deon McIntosh. When they do pass, I think it’s best to attack the sidelines with their tight ends as opposed to going over the middle of the field, where the ‘Canes like to reek havoc.

It’ll be a good test for ND’s o-line, as The U has 29 sacks on the season, and is good at getting to running backs in the backfield. Early in last week’s game against Wake Forest, offensive coordinator Chip Long couldn’t seem to get Adams going. Wake had a good 6-7 guys in the box, and the Irish started off the game extremely predicable with their play calling. It was a while before they even called an option, and it gave the Demon Deacons a chance to zero in on #33. That might fly against WF, but that won’t fly against this team.

Defensively, ND is going to have to win in the trenches and force some turnovers of their own. I wouldn’t call Rosier a dual threat, but there’s no doubt he’s mobile, and you have to respect that he can create plays with his feet. Typically when he throws interceptions, though, they come in bunches. They haven’t burned The U yet, but that’s because their defense has bailed them out. I’m interested to see Berrios doing battle against Julian Love.

This is the 27th game in the rivalry’s history, with ND leading with an 18-7-1 record. Notre Dame has won three straight matchups against the ‘Canes. I think this is also Brian Kelly’s biggest game since the Fiesta Bowl two years back. His job is safe this season, but it can be safe for the duration of his contract if he can find a way to go beat Miami on the road. He’s got good success against them historically, but this isn’t the same Miami.

I’m obviously biased, but I think ND wins by 6. I think their running attack will give The U problems later in the game. The Irish o-line is well conditioned and extremely experienced, and they have a plethora of options to wear down the Hurricane front. Supposing Wimbush can take care of the ball and the defense can get to Rozier early and often, I think the deeper team will win.

This game is Saturday night at 8 pm on ABC. Don’t expect me to reference this game ever again if the Irish lose. God, I hate The U.

 

Cover photo from UHND.

Other media from USA Today, YouTube.

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