Notre Dame Football: How the Fighting Irish Beat Miami
Miami's junior quarterback, Stephen Morris, has had this date circled for two years.
Ever since Notre Dame humiliated his Hurricanes in the 2010 Sun Bowl, Morris has been plotting his revenge.
Saturday at Soldier Field in Chicago, he will have his chance as the ninth-ranked Irish host the 4-1 Miami team in this year's addition of Notre Dame's "Shamrock Series."
If the Hurricanes are going to upset the 13.5-point favorite Irish, Morris will likely be the cause. It will be his right arm against the oft-questioned and relatively untested secondary of Notre Dame.
Morris through five games has accumulated 1,635 yards trough the air, connecting for nine touchdowns against only four picks. The shotgun-based spread offense that Miami runs averages 328.4 yards passing through the first five games.
The 'Canes have also put up significant amounts of points, averaging 35.6 per game and clocking more than 40 in three of five games.
Stephen Morris and the upset-minded Hurricanes will be the most explosive offense that Notre Dame has faced in 2012.
The good news for the Irish is that once you get past the Hurricanes passing game, large and apparent holes begin to appear.
Miami is ranked 84th in rushing offense, averaging 144 yards per game. The carries are nearly evenly divided between senior Mike James and freshman Duke Johnson.
Johnson is the player to watch, as he is averaging nearly seven yards per attempt, has scored five times and has caught 15 passes for 147 yards and a touchdown.
Defensively, simply put, the Hurricanes are a mess.
They rank 100th in scoring defense, surrendering 33.4 points per game. For comparison, Notre Dame ranks third, surrendering nine points per game.
Against members of the Football Bowl Subdivision, Miami has surrendered 41, 52, 36 and 37 points.
In their only game against a ranked opponent, a 52-13 loss at Kansas State, Miami was demolished in every phase of the game.
The worst part for Miami is that its defense is an equal opportunity offender, allowing significant meltdowns in both run and pass defense.
Boston College threw for 441 yards and committed three turnovers in a 41-32 Miami win.
North Carolina State gained 440 yards passing, committing six turnovers in losing 44-37.
Kansas State, Georgia Tech, North Carolina State and FCS Bethune-Cookman each rushed for more than 220 yards.
Even with Miami's prolific offense, were it not from help in turnovers, Miami could easily be 1-4.
On paper, Notre Dame is easily the better team and worth the 13.5-point spread.
On the field, in games like this, upsets happen all the time.
The biggest key for Notre Dame is to pressure Morris without sending a blitz. Allowing Morris time to sit comfortably in the pocket will allow big gains and points for Miami.
Notre Dame's run defense should be able to contain the Miami ground attack, but being able to commit safeties to help in coverage running cover 2 or cover 3 to help the young corners.
Offensively, it comes down to consistency.
The Irish need to control the tempo, commit to running the football and avoid turnovers.
Quarterback Everett Golson will not need to carry the team, but will need to play smart and efficient. Miami can and will put points on the board, and giving it extra chances could easily lead to an upset.
Tyler Eifert needs to be in the game plan early, even if he is targeted on a couple of screens early to draw a double team and open up DeVaris Daniels TJ Jones on the edges.
Ultimately, the game will be decided at the line of scrimmage when Miami has the football. If Stephon Tuitt and Manti Te'o are a constant presence in the Miami backfield, pressuring Morris into mistakes and disrupting the run, Notre Dame wins going away.
If Stephen Morris has time to find open receivers and Miami can run the ball when it has to, the night will be long and difficult for Notre Dame.
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