Miami Football: Do the Hurricanes Have the Edge over the Fighting Irish?
Miami (4-1) makes the trek to Chicago to face a Top 10-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish (4-0) on Saturday night.
Notre Dame is 16-7-1 against Miami, but since 1980, the Hurricanes hold a 6-5 lead on the Irish. The last time the two teams played was at the Sun Bowl in 2009 when the Irish beat the Hurricanes, 33-17.
There are plenty of storylines for Saturdays game, but who truly has the edge?
Read on to find out.
Strength of Schedule
Before I get into the categories, it's always important to compare the schedules of both teams. Although previous games are irrelevant, it at least shows what team has had a harder road to where they are right now.
The Irish have played Navy, Purdue, Michigan State and Michigan so far this season. Both the Spartans and the Wolverines were ranked when the Irish beat them, but they are currently out of all the polls.
According to the current strength of schedule, Notre Dame has the 65th-hardest schedule heading into the game against Miami.
The Hurricanes have played Boston College, Kansas State, Bethune-Cookman, Georgia Tech and North Carolina State. The only ranked team Miami has played was Kansas State, who is currently No. 7 in the AP Poll and No. 8 in the USA Today Coaches Poll.
Miami has had the 35th-hardest schedule so far this season.
When it comes to statistics, there is no doubt the Miami Hurricanes have the edge when it comes to what team has a better offense.
Through five games, the Hurricanes have racked up 2,363 total yards of offense (472 yards per game), 178 points (35.6 points per game) and have scored 22 offensive touchdowns.
In comparison the Fighting Irish (through four games) have just 1,405 total yards of offense (351 yards per game), 103 points (25.75 points per game) and have scored just 12 offensive touchdowns.
The Hurricanes beat them statistically in every major offensive category.
Even more crazy is the fact that over the last two games, the Hurricanes have 1,260 yards of total offense, only 145 yards less than Notre Dame has put up all season long.
If you are a Hurricanes fan, you may want to skip this slide as the numbers I am going to give are completely embarrassing.
Obviously, every college football fan knows how great the Notre Dame defense has been this year. They are currently the No. 3 scoring defense in the country, giving up just nine points per game.
Through four games, the Irish have given up just 1,165 total offensive yards (291 yards per game), 36 points (nine points per game), and have only allowed three offensive touchdowns.
Miami, on the other hand, has given up 2,473 total offensive yards (495 yards per game), 167 points (33.4 points per game) and have allowed 21 offensive touchdowns.
The Hurricanes are ranked No. 98 in scoring defense and 114th in total defense. See, I told you it would be embarrassing.
Edge: Notre Dame
Special Teams-Kicker and Punter
The Hurricanes kicker Jake Wieclaw was a Lou Groza Award semifinalist last season when he made 11 of 14 field goals, but so far this season he has made just 7-of-11 field goals—missing his last four attempts.
Notre Dame's kicker, Kyle Brindza, has been almost automatic making six of seven attempts. He has also made all five extra-point attempts.
For those who don't know, Notre Dame's actual starting kicker, Nick Tausch, injured his groin in the game against Navy and has yet to return to action.
The punting unit is pretty much a wash as Miami's Dalton Botts has been averaging 41.1 yards per punt while Notre Dame's Ben Turk is averaging 40.7 yards per punt.
Although Wieclaw is a much better kicker than he has showed, I still have to dock him for it...
Edge: Notre Dame
Special Teams-Return and Defense
Let's start with the defensive return teams first.
The Hurricanes punt return defense have given up 100 yards on six returns (16.67 yards per return), while Notre Dame has only had two punt returns against them, for just 12 yards (six yards per return).
The kick-return defense is another story as Notre Dame has allowed 13 returns go for 339 yards, an average of 26.08 yards per return.
The Hurricanes, on the other hand, are one of the best in the country allowing just 418 yards on 28 returns, an average of just 14.93 yards per return.
The punt return is somewhat similar as the Irish is averaging four yards per return while the Hurricanes are averaging seven.
The kickoff team is, again, in Miami's favor as they are averaging 26.1 yard per return while Notre Dame is averaging just 21.2.
Notre Dame's poor kickoff team could struggle against the playmakers the Hurricanes have on their kickoff return team.
When it comes to creating turnovers, both the Hurricanes and the Irish have done a spectacular job. Miami has created 12 in five games, while Notre Dame has created 13 in four games.
Notre Dame has recovered five fumbles and eight interceptions, while the Hurricanes recovered seven and picked off five passes.
The biggest difference in the turnover battle has been the fact that the Irish have only lost four turnovers the entire season, while the Hurricanes have lost nine.
The Irish lost one fumble and threw three interceptions, while the Hurricanes have lost five fumbles and thrown four interceptions.
The Irish have better numbers and in one less game.
Edge: Notre Dame
If anyone follows me on Twitter, he or she understands how much Hurricane coordinators Mark D'Onofrio and Jedd Fisch irritate me every game.
Even though the Hurricanes offense has been throwing up crazy numbers lately, Fisch still throws in some very questionable calls—yes, swing passes are one of them. The defense is well, horrible, to say the least.
What ties it all together though is head coach Al Golden. His die-hard attitude and family-orientated dedication to the team is simply amazing to watch.
Case in point, against Georgia Tech, wide receiver Malcolm Lewis went down with a dislocated ankle and who was there to comfort Lewis when he needed it most? Al Golden.
Golden held Lewis tight and gave him words of encouragement—not like a coach would do, but what a parent would do.
Notre Dame also has some issues it needs to take care of, especially on offense. It doesn't matter how great the defense is, if the offense can't put up any points, it won't help the Irish in the long run.
Good thing the Irish have Brian Kelly on their sidelines. Kelly is a terrific coach, and it showed when he turned Cincinnati to a 12-0 team in 2009.
He is currently turning the Irish into a dominant program since taking over for the 2010 season.
The decision was tough, each team has problems it needs to correct, but have the right head coaches in place.
So all of this leads us to this slide—who is the better team?
The Hurricanes' offense has been on a tear against tougher opponents, while the defense has been outright horrible.
The Irish defense, on the other hand, is one of the best in the country.
So who has the overall edge?! The weather might have something to do with it as the game is played in Chicago with the temperatures to be in the 50s with a slight chance of rain.
Usually what that means is the team who can successfully run the ball has the advantage, but who is that team?
I think the Hurricanes' running backs are better, but my decision comes down to defense—which Miami doesn't have.
Final Edge: Notre Dame 32, Miami 28