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Miami vs. Notre Dame: Forget Catholics vs. Convicts; Cornerbacks Are Key

SOUTH BEND, IN - SEPTEMBER 08:  Head coach Brian Kelly of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish yells during a game against the Purdue Boilermakers at Notre Dame Stadium on September 8, 2012 in South Bend, Indiana. Notre Dame defeated Purdue 21-17.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Randy ChambersAnalyst IOctober 6, 2012

Forget about the history; forget about the fact that Notre Dame is undefeated through the first month of the season; and never mind the fact that a rivalry will be reborn in Week 6 of the college football season.

While there is great reason that the folks in South Bend should be excited, the Irish aren't back just yet. Let's hold off on penciling head coach Brian Kelly and company into a BCS bowl, as today's game against the Miami Hurricanes will provide a stiff test.

Sure, the Hurricanes are not the same team of old, and you won't see Miami win any national championships any time soon. But this team does have a potent passing game, with many playmakers for quarterback Stephen Morris to throw the ball to.

Last week, the junior quarterback set an ACC record by torching North Carolina State with 566 passing yards and five touchdowns. He is barely completing 60 percent of his passes on the season, but is making plays when needed and is averaging eight yards a completion and 327 passing yards a game.

With the Hurricanes offense averaging over 35 points per contest, this unit is a confident bunch, according to Heather Dinich of ESPN. 

"Everyone on this offense is just clicking right now, and I think we’re moving great, and coach (Jedd) Fisch is doing a great job of calling a great game every single game." Morris said. "We’re not worried about anything else. We’re not worried about who our opponent is or anything like that. We’re just trying to play our best game every game. The first couple of games we were just getting a good feel for each other, getting a good feel for this offense. I think this offense can be very explosive. We have great coaches. I’m very confident in all my receivers, my offensive line, my tight ends and my running backs. I’m confident that they’re going to make the play for me."

Which brings us to the other side of the ball.

The Notre Dame defense has been one of the main reasons for this team’s success. The unit is allowing fewer than 300 yards a game, has produced 13 turnovers and has sacked the quarterback 14 times in just four games.

But while all of that sounds encouraging, the cornerback position is still extremely young, as both starters are in their first year of full-time work. That can't make you too comfortable if you are an Irish fan and hope your team continues to run the table. The Wolf Pack has one of the most NFL-ready cornerbacks in the country in David Amerson, and Morris was able to break conference passing records with him on the field.

The defense is allowing only 178 passing yards a game and has intercepted eight passes. But every team the Irish have played so far is anything but teams that prefer to air it out. Navy is a team that is ranked 119th in passing yards, and the other three teams where Big Ten programs that use their quarterbacks more to run the football.

This will be the first true test for this young secondary, as Morris has thrown the ball 207 times this season, which is not only the most in the ACC, but also the sixth-most in the country.

With the loss of veteran safety Jamoris Slaughter and cornerback Lo Wood, the Notre Dame secondary is a huge question mark that remains on a team that has goals of reaching a BCS bowl.

This young unit will be tested early and often for the first time this year, but head coach Kelly believes in his defensive backfield, according to Tony Krausz of The Journal Gazette. 

“One thing we know about them is they’re a good, disciplined group, and that goes a long way,” coach Kelly said of the secondary.

We will find out just how good they truly are, as the cornerback position will be the key in another victory for Notre Dame.


Note: All stats come from cfbstats.com unless otherwise noted.

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