Miami vs Notre Dame: Notre Dame comes to town this Saturday night for what could be a College Football Playoff eliminator. Does Hard Rock have one more level to hit? The Fighting Irish and Hurricanes are similar in a lot of ways.
Offensive profile: Both have semi-inefficient offenses capable of huge gains. Notre Dame ranks 55th in success rate but fifth in explosiveness (per my IsoPPP measure), and Miami ranks 53rd and sixth, respectively.
Finishing drives: Miami averages 4.8 points per scoring opportunity (first downs inside the opponent’s 40) and allowed 3.2, a plus-1.6 point margin that requires its opponents to create 50 percent more scoring chances to score the same number of points. Notre Dame’s margin: plus-1.5 (5.2 on offense, 3.7 on defense).
Hit-and-miss passing: Miami’s Malik Rosier is completing 56 percent of his passes, while Notre Dame’s Brandon Wimbush is completing just 52. The Hurricanes have an edge once you adjust for quality of defense — Miami ranks 16th in Passing S&P+, and ND ranks 44th — but Rosier also makes more mistakes. He threw three picks against Virginia Tech, and his INT rate is 2.6 percent to Wimbush’s 1 percent.
Stellar pass defenses. Notre Dame’s defense ranks second in Passing S&P+, and Miami’s ranks 27th. The defenses appear to have the advantage any time the QB drops to pass.
Notre Dame has Adams, though. And while the Miami defense has taken clear strides since Manny Diaz took over as Mark Richt’s defensive coordinator in 2016 — they were 52nd in Def. S&P+ in 2015, before this staff’s arrival, but were 13th last year and are 27th so far in 2017 — the Canes don’t quite have all the pieces for a sturdy run front.
It’s possible that nothing else matters. Not the crowd, not Rosier vs. Wimbush, not red-zone execution. The biggest advantage in this game is Adams vs. Miami’s run front.
“The whole thing was a learning process for me,” the Notre Dame senior linebacker said. “I’ve heard about it, obviously, but when they had the ‘30 for 30,’ they broke down the details of (the rivalry) and how nasty it really got.
“I was like, ‘Dang.’ But that was something very interesting to watch.”
Watching is one thing. Now Morgan gets to participate in a high-stakes game against the Hurricanes.
The third-ranked Irish (8-1) visit No. 7 Miami (8-0) on Saturday night in Miami Gardens, Fla. ESPN’s “College GameDay” will be broadcasting from Hard Rock Stadium to add to the buzz.
“The rivalry is really embedded,” said Morgan, a Crete-Monee alumnus. “That just brings more into the hype of the game. But it has nothing to do with us because our motto on defense is ‘nameless and faceless.’
“All that stuff is cool and it’s all glamorous and builds more hype and more attention, but we’re just worried about winning the game.”
Morgan tied for the team high with nine tackles and had two sacks in last year’s 30-27 victory against the Hurricanes in South Bend.
That game was played on Oct. 29, 2016, under much different circumstances. Both teams were struggling. The Irish had lost four of five and were on their way to a 4-8 season. The Hurricanes entered on a three-game losing streak.
Saturday’s game takes on much more significance.
“This week, it’s old-fashioned,” Notre Dame left tackle Mike McGlinchey said. “It’s where these programs should be. It’s what college football wants, and in some ways it’s what it needs.”
Miami hasn’t lost since the defeat at Notre Dame Stadium. The Hurricanes’ 13-game winning streak is the longest active one in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
They have relied on a defense that ranks first nationally in tackles for a loss (8.8 per game) and fifth in sacks (3.5 per game).
“We’re designed to attack,” coach Mark Richt said.
The Hurricanes have created 20 turnovers. They had 19 takeaways all of last season.
A similar turnover boost has sparked Notre Dame. The Irish have 19 takeaways after totaling only 14 last year.
“In big games like this, defense wins the game,” Notre Dame linebacker Drue Tranquill said. “Whoever plays better defense on Saturday is going to win. And we’re preparing with that mindset. We have to take the ball over on the road (and) put our offense in favorable situations to score.”
Saturday’s winner will remain on the playoff path while adding its personal stamp to the series.
“The rivalry that we share with them is definitely one of a lot of intensity and a lot of fire,” McGlinchey said. “And I’m excited to finally be part of what looks to be a pretty classical Notre Dame-Miami game.”