After such a great start for Notre Dame, Miami may be one of those teams that are overlooked on the 2012 schedule. If the Irish do get caught looking ahead to next week’s matchup against Stanford there will be a loss on their record before that game begins.
The Notre Dame-Miami showdown this weekend is widely considered one of the best matchups on the Week 6 schedule. While there are many signs that point to this game resulting in another victory for the Irish, Miami is not a slouch to be looked over.
The Hurricanes are coming off a couple of impressive wins of their own, including knocking off Georgia Tech at home and beating a solid North Carolina State club. It would be foolish to say the Hurricanes are ACC contenders just yet, but things seem to be clicking for them in their own right.
We have seen many teams already suffer major upsets and take a plunge in the rankings. Notre Dame seems to have a lot of advantages over this Miami team, but here are a few reasons why the 2012 shamrock series could be a lot closer than you think.
Stephen Morris Is Coming Along
Stephen Morris is only completing 60 percent of his passes—59.9 percent if you want to be exact.
However, the first-year starter is quickly coming around, as he set an ACC record last week throwing for 566 yards in the victory over North Carolina State. He also put together 436 passing yards the week before against Georgia Tech.
While his completion percentage could certainly improve, Morris is averaging 327 passing yards per contest, good for ninth in the country. Although the junior quarterback only has 31 rushing yards on the year, he is more than capable of scrambling around, buying time in the pocket and making plays with his feet.
With the lack of experience in the secondary for Notre Dame, this will be the first true test for many of the young players in the defensive backfield. The Irish are only allowing 178 yards in the air but haven't faced a passing threat yet, as three of the first four games have been against Big Ten teams.
If Morris can get going and take advantage of a thin secondary, things could get interesting.
The Overall Speed of the Hurricanes Offense
The Hurricanes quarterback may have the numbers, but he isn't the only guy on this offense who is capable of hurting the Notre Dame defense. This is a program that receives majority of its players from Florida, which means there is a ton of speed to go around.
True-freshman running back Duke Johnson is averaging over six yards per carry and has five plays of over 20 yards. He also has become a factor on special teams, averaging 29 yards per return on kickoffs, including taking one back for a touchdown.
Wide receiver Phillip Dorsett is the leading receiver for this Hurricanes offense, hauling in 28 passes for 464 yards and three touchdowns. He isn't the biggest receiver at 5'10" but is one of the faster players this defense will face all year.
There is a reason Miami is tied for the most plays for over 30 yards (13) this season, according to CFBstats.com. This team has many speedy players who will force the defense to play on its heels all night long. The slightest little hesitation due to play-action or pump fakes and somebody will break free for a big play downfield.
Johnson will line up all over the field and make things difficult for the defense, while players such as Dorsett and Rashawn Scott will be a handful for the secondary. It is one thing to prepare for one player such as Denard Robinson or Le'Veon Bell; it is another to defend many players who are capable of running a 4.4.
Everett Golson and the Quarterback Situation
Everett Golson has really surprised me throughout the year, as he throws a gorgeous and accurate football. He doesn't seem rattled for a first-year starter and usually puts the ball right on the money.
Still, he seems to be on a short leash, as Tommy Rees has been the guy that head coach Brian Kelly has picked to finish games. Rees finished the Purdue contest and helped bail Golson out of a hairy situation against Michigan a couple of weeks ago.
While Golson seems like he has all of the tools to be successful, he has thrown three interceptions, including two in the most recent game against the Wolverines. Miami doesn't have the best defense in the world, as the Hurricanes are 11th in the ACC in pass defense, but they are capable of putting pressure on the opposing quarterback.
Will this be the game where rotating quarterbacks catches up to Notre Dame? Will Golson continue to turn the ball over in the red zone, making it difficult for the offense to produce points?
If Miami can rattle Golson a bit, the Hurricanes will have a solid chance to win this ball game.
Notre Dame Seems Ripe for the Picking
It has been a while since the Irish were in this situation, but everybody has fallen in love with Notre Dame once again. After two solid victories and a 4-0 start, almost everybody is willing to say that this team is back and ready to contend for a BCS bowl for the first time since 2006. The Irish are now ranked inside the top 10 of the AP Poll and everything is wonderful for the program that has suffered through many tough years of coaching changes.
Miami, on the other hand, is a team that has struggled as well, finishing last season with a 6-6 record and losing to teams such as Maryland, Virginia and Boston College. Head coach Al Golden could use a marquee victory to add to his résumé to show that the Hurricanes will soon be back on a national level.
While the Irish have become the popular team to talk about lately, now is not the time to get comfortable, especially against a team as hungry as Miami.