Nov. 10, 2017
By John Heisler
Notre Dame at 8-1 is ranked third in the current College Football Playoff poll and Saturday goes on the road to face an 8-0 Miami team with the longest current winning streak in the country (13 games). In fact, the last team to defeat the Hurricanes was Notre Dame.
It doesn't get much more fascinating than this.
Past Irish-'Cane contests have been a hot topic this week, with the two teams now slated to meet on a semi-regular basis as part of Notre Dame's football scheduling agreement with the Atlantic Coast Conference. Fans of both programs can look forward to future meetings in 2024 at Notre Dame, 2025 at Miami, 2028 and 2031 at Notre Dame, 2032 and 2034 at Miami and 2037 at Notre Dame.
Here are some areas to check out Saturday night:
- Notre Dame's running game. From the Irish standpoint, there has not been a better story this fall than Brian Kelly's squad going from a final ranking of 80th last year in rushing offense (163.3 yards per game) to this season's mark of 324.8 -- almost double where the Irish were a year ago. Here's how the Irish have fared against the various rushing defenses they've faced in 2017 (with past opponent numbers and rankings obviously affected by Notre Dame's production):
Opponent Current Rush Def. Rank Rush Yds. Allowed ND Production Temple 72nd 172.7 422 Georgia 5th 89.0 55 Boston College 111th 206.2 515 Michigan State 3rd 87.0 182 Miami (Ohio) 53rd 152.3 333 North Carolina 114th 211.3 341 USC 71st 171.7 377 NC State 31st 131.2 318 Wake Forest 108th 205.6 380 Miami (Florida) 66th 170.0 TBD Navy 60th 165.9 TBD Stanford 81st 177.7 TBD
- Facing November unbeatens. Only once since 1988 has Notre Dame gone on the road in November to face an unbeaten opponent. That came in 2004 against top-rated and 10-0 USC in what turned out to be the final game of the Tyrone Willingham era (a 41-10 Trojan win). The Irish last won one of those encounters in 1988, also at USC when both teams came in 10-0 and ranked in the top two slots in the polls (the Irish won that one 27-10). Other Notre Dame victories in that category came in 1982 at top-rated Pittsburgh and in 1957 at second-ranked Oklahoma.
- On the road again. This marks the fourth Notre Dame road contest of 2017 -- and the first three all have been victories by at least 20 points. The average Irish win margin in the triumphs at Boston College, Michigan State and North Carolina has been 24 points.
- Nobody makes mistakes. These are two of the better programs in the country when it comes to avoiding mistakes. Miami has turned the ball over only nine times all year (ranking 20th nationally), while the Irish have done that seven times (fifth in the country). Notre Dame is fifth in turnover margin thanks to the 19 turnovers gained so far in 2017. Miami is fourth thanks to 20 turnovers forced. Notre Dame did not turn the ball over against USC, NC State or Wake Forest and has not lost a fumble since the third game of the season at Boston College.
- Improving Irish. A victory against Wake Forest last weekend meant the Irish already have doubled their victory total compared to 2016 (from four to eight). The only Notre Dame teams to do better in that category (based on victories compared to the previous season) would be the teams in 1964 (2-7 to 9-1), 1919 (3-1-2 to 9-0), 2002 (5-6 to10-3) and 1957 (2-8 to 7-3). So an Irish win at Miami would enable Notre Dame to match the third and fourth best turnarounds in program history.