Notre Dame will come back home Saturday to host Miami of Ohio after two consecutive road wins. The Irish are back in the AP Top 25 at #22 after a 20 point win in primetime at Michigan State. Head Coach Chuck Martin and the Miami Redhawks will look to play spoiler and catch the Irish napping. Martin, of course, is a member of Brian Kelly’s coaching tree and spent 4 years on his Notre Dame staff, including 2 as offensive coordinator. Don’t expect Martin to hold back against his former mentor though, as he will have his team prepared and expecting to win.
Unlike Notre Dame, Miami was a bowl team last season. The Redhawks also return 17 starters from that team. With that being said, Miami is still a MAC opponent. In Notre Dame’s case if you can beat Power 5 opponents on the road by 20+ points, there’s no reason to lose to a MAC team. Miami certainly has some talent, but especially along the lines this game just looks like a mismatch in Notre Dame’s favor.
Notre Dame Offense vs. Miami Defense
Despite scoring their second lowest point total of the season, Notre Dame’s offense had it’s most complete performance last week. For once, the Irish looked balanced on offense as Brandon Wimbush completed 70% of his passes. The running game continues to look strong, but could be without Dexter Williams this week. Expect Josh Adams to split carries with Tony Jones Jr. in the 1st half, with some Deon McIntosh mixed in. Ideally, Adams will be resting by the 2nd half. With their advantage along the line, it probably won’t matter who is running behind McGlinchey, Nelson, Mustipher, Bars, and Kraemer/Hainsey. The Irish will try to use their size in the passing game with St. Brown, Claypool, and Mack at tight end. Finally, Kevin Stepherson will be back at receiver for Notre Dame following a 4 game suspension. Don’t look for Stepherson early in the game, but he will get some work. The goal should be to have Stepherson ready to be a deep threat by the USC game.
Defense is the strength of this Miami team, as they come in ranked in the top 35 in scoring defense and yards allowed per game. The Redhawks will have one big loss though, as senior safety Tony Reid will have to sit out the 1st half due to a targeting penalty last week. Heath Harding is another strong player in the defensive backfield, as the senior was named to the Jim Thorpe Award Watch List. The weakness of the defense has been the pass rush, which has only registered 3 sacks. While the D-line has size, they lack height which could prove to be an advantage for the Irish’s long-armed offensive line.This defense relies on turnovers, as they have forced 9 on the season which could prove to be a challenge for Wimbush.
Edge: Notre Dame
Miami Offense vs. Notre Dame Defense
The key connection for Miami’s offense this season has been quarterback Gus Ragland throwing to 6’4” receiver James Gardner. Gardner already has 16 catches for nearly 300 yards and 2 TDs. Ragland is also the most experienced quarterback this defense will have faced and could put up some numbers. The redshirt junior was very effective last season in leading Miami to 6 straight wins. Miami doesn’t have much to offer at running back, as the Redhawks have averaged just 3.1 yards per carry this season on the ground. With an undersized offensive line, expect Miami to be airing it out most of the game.
Although they gave up nearly 500 yards last week, it was still a strong performance from the Irish defense. Mike Elko’s group has consistently tightened up in the red zone and forced turnovers. Shaun Crawford and Drue Tranquil have been particularly impressive. The question this week is can the Irish pass rush have a better performance? Daelin Hayes may be a little banged up, so the Irish could be looking to Julian Okwara for a spark there. The safety position remains a concern for Notre Dame, and Nick Coleman, Jalen Elliot, and Devin Studstill will all be tested by Ragland. Regardless, the size and speed of this defense should have no trouble against the Redhawks.
Edge: Notre Dame
The Yoon and Newsome kicking and punting duo remains a strength for the Irish. However, Notre Dame has struggled on kickoffs this season, with short kicks and poor coverage. Chris Finke and CJ Sanders still haven’t gotten much going in the punt and kickoff return games. Against a non Power 5 opponent, this could be the game where Sanders takes a kickoff to the house. Especially considering Miami has already allowed 2 kickoff return touchdowns this season.
Miami kicker Samuel Sloman has been strong so far this year at 5/6 on field goals and perfect on extra points. Kyle Kramer is excellent as a punter, averaging 42 yards per boot and pinning 10 inside the 20. The Redhawks haven’t done much on punt and kick returns. As I mentioned above, the kick coverage has been terrible for Miami which could provide an opportunity for CJ Sanders.
Edge: Notre Dame
Although the Notre Dame coaching staff has emphasized attention to detail, I am expecting a slight letdown from the Irish. Not for the entire game, but an uninspiring 1st half may have Irish fans scratching their heads. Miami has enough talent to keep it close for a half, but like against Temple and Boston College, I expect Notre Dame to blow the doors off in the 3rd quarter. The physicality on both lines will prove to be far too much for Miami.
Notre Dame 41 Miami 17
Tailgate Song of the Week
The Irish are trying to avoid a letdown Saturday after the big win over Michigan State. This Beatles classic captures exactly how I’m feeling going into this game. Yes, I realize the Chainsmokers have a song of the same title. There was no way I was picking that garbage over the Fab Four. In fact, I’m embarrassed I even put them in the same paragraph. Anyway, Go Irish!