When the Notre Dame Fighting Irish travel to Miami Gardens to take on the Miami Hurricanes for their twenty-seventh meeting, there will certainly be no love lost between the two teams.
If 2017 is to be the season in which the Hurricanes make tremendous strides, they will have to defeat the Irish. Dating back to October 20, 1990, Notre Dame has won the last four matchups of the rivalry. The last time a team with the U on the side of their helmet got the best of the “Golden Domers” was November 25, 1989. The Hurricanes are 7–18–1 against the Fighting Irish.
Looking back at recent seasons, the 2016 game was one of the strangest we’ve seen. Miami was reeling after three straight losses (against FSU, UNC, and VT), while ND was 2–5 staggering into the contest held at Notre Dame Stadium. The Hurricanes were not playing the type of ball that fans knew they were capable of a year ago. Unfortunately, Miami went on to lose the game 30–27, adding to the four wins Notre Dame produced in 2016.
2017 is a new season, so on to bigger and better things. Miami will have home-field advantage this time around. Of course, Irish fans do travel well, so it will make for a great gameday atmosphere.
Here are some points to consider when the teams meet November 11, 2017.
Wimbush a Bigger Threat than Kizer?
In Miami and Notre Dame’s last meeting, DeShone Kizer had a clean day against the defense. He completed 25 of 38 passes for 263 passing yards, with two touchdowns and zero interceptions. It’s too early to make comparisons; however, presumed starting quarterback Brandon Wimbush is a dual threat at the position who could test the Hurricanes defense horizontally. Wimbush could be a one read and scramble QB. We will have to keep an eye on the highlights to see if he progresses throughout the season.
By the time the ‘Canes reach November, the defense will have played several quarterbacks who could be defined as dual threats. These experiences should put Miami in a position to limit Wimbush when the time comes.
An Irish Skill Set
Last year Miami became too familiar with WR Equanimeous St. Brown, who hauled in six receptions for 72 yards and a touchdown. Between St. Brown (six-five, 204 pounds) and WR Miles Boykin (six-four, 225 pounds), Notre Dame will have a shooting guard and a small forward at the top of the wide receiver position. To increase depth, they took in Michigan graduate transfer WR Freddy Canteen (six-one, 185 lbs.) and former Arizona State University WR Cam Smith. With the additions of Dee Delaney, Jhavonte Dean, along with the incumbent Michael Jackson all measuring above six feet, Miami possess the length in the secondary to be more than a challenge for those tall Irish receivers.
While Miami has a Bishop Gorman TE on the way, Notre Dame sees their TE return after being ruled academically ineligible in 2016. Sporting a new name, legally changed from Alize Jones to Alize Mack in the offseason, the six-foot-four, 245-pound tight end looks to make up for lost time.
Brian VanGorder was canned from Notre Dame in the middle of the 2016 season. Mike Elko takes over the defensive coordinator role in 2017 after having coached in the same capacity at Hofstra, Bowling Green, and Wake Forest. A change in coordinators means there will also be a change in scheme. Notre Dame will change to a 4-2-5 defensive scheme that has seen its share of success at different areas of the college football landscape.
A scheme designed to defend against the pass, a 4-2-5 defense does a great job of defending the outside flat, since offenses—specifically spread offenses—love the short out and option routes.
Could UM be ND’s Savior?
Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly is treading on thin ice entering 2017. After firing former defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder last September, Kelly and athletic director Jack Swarbrick hired Mike Elko to run the defense. Kelly also had to replace Mike Sanford as offensive coordinator after he took the head coach position with Western Kentucky. Notre Dame brought in Chip Long as the new offensive coordinator on a three-year deal after his success in the same position at the University of Memphis.
All these moves need to provide immediate dividends sooner rather than later if Kelly is to repair the damage from the 2016 season. A win against the Hurricanes would be a step in the right direction for him. A loss would end Notre Dame’s streak and could bring the pitchforks out in South Bend.
Matchups to Watch
OT Mike McGlinchey vs. DE Joe Jackson
McGlinchey would have been a first-round selection in the 2017 NFL Draft, yet he choose to return to Notre Dame for another season believing he was not ready for the NFL. In the 2016 matchup, Trent Harris got plenty of run against the All-American and found some success using his leverage at six foot two against the six-foot-eight McGlinchey. The 2017 matchup should see Jackson get more snaps against McGlinchey, who will have to contend with Jackson’s quick burst off the line of scrimmage and his extra year of experience. McGlinchey is regarded as one of the best prospects in college football, so it will be a main event match to see Jackson or Harris work against a highly regarded player.
G Quenton Nelson vs. DT RJ McIntosh
The other matchup to watch will feature All-American candidate Quenton Nelson going toe-to-toe with RJ McIntosh. There won’t be a spotlight on this or the McGlinchey/Jackson matchup when the game arrives, but the winner in the trenches will impact who is victorious after 48 minutes.
While the breaks appeared to go Miami’s way a season ago, from an onside kick to muffed punts by Notre Dame, things changed late in the game. Special teams were a major factor in the game’s outcome in 2016.
The 2017 edition of the rivalry comes in the final month of the season for both teams. It also serves as the penultimate home game for the Hurricanes. The Notre Dame vs. Miami rivalry has been in the spotlight due to last year’s ESPN “30 For 30” documentary “Catholics vs. Convicts”. Although there are other rivals that Hurricane fans prioritize over the Irish, Notre Dame still remains the focus of disdain.