When Miami and Notre Dame met last season in South Bend, it turned out to be a game worthy of the intense rivalry between the two programs with the Fighting Irish winning 30-27 on a last-minute field goal.

But that was then and this is now, and that 2016 contest didn’t have the national implications that are rolled into this Saturday’s meeting. Miami (8-0, 6-0) needs to win to continue its climb from No. 7 in the College Football Playoff rankings, while a loss by the Fighting Irish (8-1) would knock them from the top four because it would be a second loss.

The fact this is Notre Dame’s first trip to Miami since 1989 only ramps up the excitement around UM coach Mark Richt’s program.

“It takes a lot of work to get here this late in the season and we are excited about that and we are proud of our guys, but we know we have a monster challenge here this weekend,” said Richt.

Notre Dame’s only loss came against Georgia, which has topped the CFP rankings the past two weeks.

“This is why we came here. This is why I came back to my alma mater, these types of moments,” said Richt, who coached at Irish-slayer Georgia prior to coming to UM two years ago.

Meanwhile, Brian Kelly likes the direction his Notre Dame team is headed after rattling off seven consecutive wins.

“I know our guys are excited about this championship drive that they’re on now,” said Kelly.

Kelly said there wasn’t much value in looking at the film from last season’s game.

“It’s really about both these teams this year,” Kelly said. “(They have) a new quarterback. (Mark) Rosier is a really gritty kid. As a first-year starter, he finds ways to make plays.

“He’s a lot like Brandon (Wimbush) … He just finds ways to win football games.”

The difference between the two quarterbacks is that Rosier is more prone to throw the deep ball. The Miami freshman has passed for 2,773 yards and 19 touchdowns –  nearly a thousand more yards and eight more scores than Wimbush.

But Wimbush also has only thrown two interceptions, while Rosier has been picked off seven times, including three errant throws last week against Virginia Tech.

Richt knows Rosier will have to do a better job taking care of the football against the Irish, who expect to have tailback Josh Adams back in action. He missed the second half against Wake Forest last week and finished with just 22 yards because of what Notre Dame’s sports information office first labeled as “fatigue” but later changed to a “headache.”

Adams ranks ninth nationally with 132.2 rushing yards per game.

With Adams in the same backfield with Wimbush, the Irish have a one-two punch that will test UM’s run defense.

In the latest NCAA rankings, the teams are fairly evenly matched.

Notre Dame is No. 7 in scoring offense (41.3), 13th in total offense (495.1), 17th in scoring defense (18.4) and 50th in total defense (375.6).

Meanwhile, Miami is 44th in scoring offense (31.5), 25th in total offense (461.0), 12th in scoring defense (17.6) and 43rd in total defense (367.6).

IN THE SPOTLIGHT

(All times Central)

North Carolina 34, at PITTSBURGH 31, Thursday

Duke at Army, Saturday 11 a.m. CT, CBS Sports Channel

N.C. State at Boston College, Saturday 11 a.m., ABC, ESPN2

Virginia  Tech at Georgia Tech, Saturday 11:20 a.m. CT, ACC Network

Wake Forest at Syracuse, Saturday 2 p.m. CT, ACC Network

Florida State at Clemson, Saturday 2:30 p.m., ESPN

Virginia at Louisville, Saturday 2:30 p.m. CT, ESPNU

Notre Dame at Miami, Saturday 7 p.m. CT, ABC

FAB FIVE

  1. Miami (8-0, 6-0): Last Week – W, Virginia Tech, 28-10. The Impact – With A-Rod and J-Lo jumping on the bandwagon, Hurricanes extended nation’s longest win streak to 13 games as Malik Rosier passed for two touchdowns and rushed for another. But UM has even bigger test Saturday with Notre Dame, the last team to beat UM, visiting.
  1. Clemson (8-1, 6-1): Last Week – W, at N.C. State, 38-31. The Impact – After flirting with being upset last week, Tigers need to shift into beast mode to strengthen standing in CFP poll. K’Von Wallace picked off Wolfpack’s Ryan Finley on final play to preserve last week’s comeback win.
  1. Virginia Tech (7-2, 3-2): Last Week – L, at Miami, 28-10. The Impact – Hokies had three interceptions against Miami, but it wasn’t enough to fuel an upset, mainly because Justin Fuente’s team turned it over four times to lose for just second time this season.
  1. N.C. State (6-3, 4-1): Last Week – L, Clemson, 38-31. The Impact – Dave Doeren was mad enough to accuse defending national champs of cheating after Wolfpack lost for second straight week following six-game win streak. With next two games on road, Doeren needs to be more concerned about a defense that has given up 73 points in last two weeks.
  1. Wake Forest (5-4, 2-3): Last Week – L, at Notre Dame, 48-37. The Impact – Demon Deacons surrendered 24 points in second quarter to dig early hole against Irish. But despite losing four of last five games, Deacs still just need one win to become bowl eligible.

 

THE PACK

 6. Boston College (5-4, 3-3): Last Week –The Impact – Eagles have nation’s No. 2 overall pass defense and rank seventh in interceptions with 13, so facing pass-happy Wolfpack should be a huge issue. While BC has won three in a row, Steve Addazio’s team still needs one more to become bowl eligibile.

 7. Louisville (5-4, 2-4): Last Week –The Impact –Cardinals are fifth in nation in big plays with 62 of 20 or more yards. Lamar Jackson is now third player in NCAA history to surpass 8,000 yards passing and 3,500 yards rushing. Bobby Petrino’s squad needs to get back on track after losing three of four games.

8. Florida State (3-5, 3-4): Last Week – Syracuse, 27-24. The Impact – If Jimbo Fisher wants his players to regain respect, there’s no better time to defy all odds than this weekend in Clemson. Hey, it’s just a thought. And if nothing else, FSU finally won a home game last week as Cam Akers rushed for nearly 200 yards and two touchdowns.

9. Virginia (6-3, 3-2): Last Week – W, Georgia Tech, 40-36. The Impact – Blown out in previous two games, Cavs rallied from double-digit deficit to pull out bowl-clinching win over Yellow Jackets in final 82 seconds. Kurt Benkert tossed three TD passes covering at least 27 yards, including two to Andre Levrone.

10. Georgia Tech (4-4, 3-3): Last Week – L, at Virginia, 40-36. The Impact – Despite knack for making big plays, Paul Johnson’s Yellow Jackets have lost three of four games to put bowl hopes in jeopardy. QB TaQuon Marshall rushed for 143 yards and two touchdowns, including 78 yarder, and passed for 179 yards and another score. But he also left plenty more yards on the field, completing just 6 of 22 passes.

11. Syracuse (4-5, 2-3): Last Week – L, at Florida State, 27-24. The Impact – Orange have split four straight games in which winning team scored 27 points, including three games with final score of 27-24. If it doesn’t want to squander upset of Clemson three weeks ago, Dino Babers’ team needs two more wins to become bowl eligible for first time since 2013.

 

THE UNPROVEN

12. Pittsburgh (4-5, 2-3): Last Week – Idle. This Week – L, North Carolina, 34-31. The Impact – In battle of teams coming off open dates, Panthers squandered chance to reach .500 in ACC action despite four second-half touchdowns by tailback Darrin Hall, who finished with 121 yards.

13. Duke (4-5, 1-5): Last Week – Idle. The Impact – Blue Devils have lost five in row and now face Army team that has won its last five and hasn’t lost at home. Black Knights also lead nation with 365 rushing yards per game. David Cutcliffe’s team has set school record with four interceptions returned for touchdowns, including two by corner back Byron Fields Jr.

14. North Carolina (1-8, 0-6): Last Week – Idle. This Week – W, Pittsburgh, 34-31. The Impact – Anthony Ratliff-Williams accounted for three touchdowns, including returning opening kickoff 98 yards and then catching game-winning 3-yard pass from Nathan Elliott. Ratliff-Williams also threw 35-yard TD pass to Josh Cabrera as Tar Heels won first ACC game of season.

BEARD’S PICKS

North Carolina 34, at PITTSBURGH 31

Duke at ARMY

N.C. State at BOSTON COLLEGE

VIRGINIA TECH at Georgia Tech

Wake Forest at SYRACUSE

Florida State at CLEMSON

Virginia at LOUISVILLE

Notre Dame at MIAMI

Last Week: 4-1

Overall: 58-15 (79.4%)

Note: Each week during the college football season, I’ll be  updating how things are unfolding in the Big Ten by Wednesday, the SEC by Thursday and ACC by Friday.  

 

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