It's Miami Notre Dame week!
And although the two teams come in a combined 6-8, it's still 'Canes - Irish!
We caught up with Pat Rick of One Foot Down to learn more about ND's struggles, the key players, talk aboout the game and the history of the rivalry, plus much more.
Full Q&A below:
SOTU: Notre Dame is just 2-5 on the season, yet the administration gave Coach Kelly a vote of confidence. How does that speak to the future of the program? Have this year's struggles been more fluky or a sign of a program on the demise?
OFD: I'm of the opinion that anytime the athletic director or anyone else in the administration feels compelled to publicly give a coach a "vote of confidence," that's never a good sign for the program.
AT BEST, it means athletic director Jack Swarbrick will loyally support, amid potentially the most unnecessarily embarrassing season in Notre Dame history (considering ND's 2-5 record against an awful schedule up to this point), the man he hired seven years ago. That's the best case scenario and that does not make me feel confident in the future of the program.
Swarbrick is publicly standing behind a guy who has now lost at least 5 games in 4 out of 7 seasons and who has lost at least 4 games in 5 of 7 seasons. LSU just fired Les Miles after he had 7 double digit-win seasons in a 10-year span (and they felt 2-2 was a record that garnered his firing this year, while ND sits at 2-5 with no action). LSU is a very good program. But for ND, one of the greatest college football programs of all-time, to accept the mediocrity Kelly has delivered and even stand behind those results? That does not bode well for the Fighting Irish down the road. That's not a commitment to excellence.
This year's struggles have indeed seemed a little fluky, in that the team clearly has talent and Kelly has never had a losing season at ND, let alone one as disastrous as this. But if the team clearly has talent and a soft schedule and for the first time in years isn't suffering any major injuries, how can anyone say this is a fluke year instead of something that portends much worse things to come? Doesn't the issue have to be the coaching, considering all other factors?
Maybe I'm a "the sky is falling" kind of fan, and if so, I will hopefully be proven wrong next year, assuming Swabrick means what he says about Kelly coaching the team next season.
But if you're an ND fan right now and you're not worried about this sudden collapse into being one of the worst teams in the country during the seventh season of a supposed experienced program-builder's tenure at THE traditional football power, then you've clearly already accepted mediocrity.
SOTU: Give me two players on both sides of the ball UM fans may not know yet by name, but need to watch out for.
OFD: Offense: Equanimeous St. Brown and Dexter Williams
You might have heard Equanimeous' fantastic name already this year, as he's been ND's best receiver and one of its only big-time playmakers. His ability to get some separation and pick up yards after the catch will be crucial, especially against an experienced Miami secondary. He's gotta come ready to play
Williams' name might sound familiar as well, as a couple years ago he was one of many Florida-area recruits considering Miami. Ultimately, the Hurricanes' running back class was crowded and Dex signed with ND, and he's really shown some explosiveness as a sophomore as he has picked up more carries with senior Tarean Folston struggling to get back to 100% after an ACL tear last year and Josh Adams being banged up basically all season. If he can get some space courtesy of the blocking exploits of the disappointingly inconsistent ND offensive line, he could make some big plays to keep ND in this one.
Defense: Nyles Morgan and Julian Love
Nyles Morgan is one of the only players on the ND defense who could start for a major championship contender this season. He's strong, fast, solid in coverage, and at middle linebacker is one of ND's only pass rush threats (if you can even call him that, with just 2 sacks on the year). He's a sure tackler and will be all over the field
Love is a true freshman who ascended to a starting role at cornerback after sophomore Shaun Crawford ruptured his Achilles and sophomore Nick Coleman struggled mightily early in the season. Love has stepped in and has been extremely sound in coverage, proven sure-tackling in run support, and displayed a ton of promise as the future at cornerback. He may still make a couple freshman mistakes, but he will be crucial in solidifying the side of the field opposite senior cornerback Cole Luke, and with the Irish's mediocre-at-best safety play, he could be the difference-maker that prevents a couple big plays by Miami receivers..
SOTU: Which match-ups/players on the 'Canes concern you?
OFD: Without question, it's the Miami offense against the Notre Dame defense. Specifically, the combination of the Hurricane run game with Joseph Yearby and Mark Walton, along with Brad Kaaya's experience and arm, leave me shaking as I envision our tacklers failing to get off blocks or take runners down on first contact. Following that, play-action from Kaaya could resut in huge, momentum-changing plays over the top to guys like Stacy Coley, David Njoku, and Ahmmon Richards.
SOTU: What are your all-time favorite and least favorite memories of Miami Vs Notre Dame?
OFD: I was born in 1991 and thus don't have actual memories of much of anything between these two teams (basically the 2011 Sun Bowl and the 2012 shellacking ND handed to Miami at Soldier Field are all I know from live experience).
However, I've consumed a ton of old games and videos and interviews from the good ole days when both programs were sensational, and can't wait to see the
From what I've seen, here are my answers:
Reasons to watch this video, even if you're a Miami fan:
- Hearing Rocket Ismail tell a story, complete with sound effects
- Hearing Rocket Ismail do a great Lou Holtz impression
- The ability to look back nostalgically at a time when Miami football was so feared and intimidating, and at a time when they could do things like walk through opposing teams' warm-ups and it was accepted
This video epitomizes why every ND fan is obsessed with, and still pines for, Lou Holtz as coach of Notre Dame.
SOTU: What kind of weather can traveling Miami fans and 'Canes players expect for Saturday in South Bend?
OFD: Unfortunately for Miami natives, we're talking about an end-of-October weekend in South Bend, so definitely pack some jeans and a jacket.
And although sometimes this time of year could actually mean very cold and potentially snowy weather, this weekend actually looks pretty decent and partly cloudy, with temperatures in the 50s and 60s. The high
SOTU: Last but not least, how does this game play out? Who wins and why?
I'm an unabashed Notre Dame homer, in that I constantly pick ND to win, no matter how the season is actually going and who the opponent is. I can always find a way to rationalize a victory prediction.
But at this point, the Irish have beaten me down and deteriorated my confidence completely. I do not believe ND will win this game, even if I think the Irish have just as much talent as, if not more than, Miami.
Miami's defense will play aggressive, athletic football and force a few turnovers against a rested but rusty ND offense, and that will give Brad Kaaya and his unit plenty of cushion as they score almost at-will against the Notre Dame defense. DeShone Kizer will play pretty well with his team down, per usual, but the Hurricanes will be too much for the Irish in the end and Miami will win this one 37-24.
Thanks again to Pat for working with us.
You can find my answers to his questions HERE.