Notre Dame Football: Fighting Irish Must Avoid Letdown vs. Miami Hurricanes

Tim DanielsFeatured ColumnistSeptember 28, 2012

SOUTH BEND, IN - SEPTEMBER 03:  Manti Te'o #5 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish calls signals against the University of South Florida Bulls at Notre Dame Stadium on September 3, 2011 in South Bend, Indiana. South Florida defeated Notre Dame 23-20.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

As Notre Dame enjoys a well-deserved bye week after victories over Michigan State and Michigan, it's crucial that the Fighting Irish don't overlook Miami with a high-profile matchup against Stanford in a couple of weeks.

The Irish shouldn't be short on confidence after two straight wins over ranked opponents, which has moved them into the Top 10 of the AP poll, but the team must make sure that confidence doesn't become overconfidence during the week off.

Miami is a prototypical trap-game opponent. It's a team Notre Dame should beat rather handily considering Kansas State beat the Hurricanes by 39 a few weeks ago, but Miami has enough talent to pull off the upset if the Irish are simply going through the motions.

It would be easy for Notre Dame to do exactly that after two big wins, a week off and bigger games on the horizon. Just like the fans, players can get caught looking ahead and suddenly have a one in the loss column.

Head coach Brian Kelly has to take every opportunity over the next week to remind his team about the importance of the Miami game. He can't let his players lose focus on the task at hand and derail a potentially memorable season.

The Hurricanes are 3-1 heading into an ACC clash with N.C. State this week, a game in which they are a slight favorite. They picked up a thrilling victory over Georgia Tech in Week 3 and have rebounded nicely since that loss to Kansas State.

Mike James and Duke Johnson are the two Miami players who should concern Notre Dame the most. They have combined to rush for 567 yards and seven touchdowns. Johnson is averaging eight yards per carry.

Luckily for the Irish, their defense has been virtually impenetrable in the first four games. Holding the two Michigan powerhouses to a combined nine points is a tremendous feat considering the playmakers both teams have.

As the offense searches for more consistency from Everett Golson or Tommy Rees under center, the defense will need to continue leading the way. The unit ranks fourth in the nation in points allowed and has been downright dominant at times.

It's a trend that will have to continue next week. If the Irish defenders can rise to the occasion again, they will survive the trap and set up a huge game against Stanford, even after its loss.

That's only possible if they maintain complete focus on Miami, though.

It's easier said than done.