Miami-Notre Dame 2017: Fifteen fast facts about the Hurricanes-Irish present, past

Players get into it before the 1988 UM-Notre Dame game in South Bend. (Jonathan Daniel/Allsport/Getty Images)

Players get into it before the 1988 UM-Notre Dame game in South Bend. (Jonathan Daniel/Allsport/Getty Images)

[Five things we learned from Miami-Virginia Tech]

It’s Miami-Notre Dame week. Setting the table for the big clash between old rivals Saturday (8 p.m., ABC):

* One thing you’ll read a lot this week (in addition to the phrase ‘Catholics vs. Convicts‘): Miami’s last loss was last Oct. 29 at Notre Dame. Since that 30-27 setback in South Bend, the Hurricanes have won 13 in a row. That is the longest streak in the nation.

* No diehard Hurricanes fan (or, especially, former player) needs a reminder. But if you’re a casual fan under the age of 40, you may not realize that rivalry was once one of the best in the country. They met as top-10 teams three times — 1987, 1988 and 1989 – with Miami winning two of three. When the Irish were a national power two generations ago, it beat the Hurricanes 11 times from 1967-80. Miami was 6-2 over Notre Dame from 1981-89. The unranked Irish upset second-ranked Miami in South Bend in 1990. In more recent history: Notre Dame beat UM in the 2010 Sun Bowl and stomped the Canes in Chicago in 2012 (before getting dominated at then-Sun Life Stadium in the national title game against Alabama).

* Miami’s last win over Notre Dame: Nov. 25, 1989, a 27-10 home win in front of 81,634. The Hurricanes won their third national championship, beating Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. The seventh-ranked Hurricanes, in the midst of their 58-game winning streak at the Orange Bowl, ended the top-ranked Irish’s 23-game winning streak (the nation’s longest). “I hate this damn place,” Notre Dame linebacker Ned Bolchar said afterward.

* The Irish’s only loss this year: 20-19, Sept. 9 at home to Georgia. As UGA and Notre Dame have continued to dominate and rise into the top four of the playoff rankings, that game has been the key resume piece for both.

* This game won’t be a “pillow fight,” like commentators expected last year. No, the winner of this will take a major step toward a playoff bid, which is why College GameDay will visit Coral Gables this week. According to the Associated Press, 61 schools have hosted GameDay since the last time ESPN’s signature Saturday show came to Miami. That Nov. 17, 2001 game, between the 15th-ranked visitors and second-ranked hosts, was a 59-0 Miami win. This is also the first time a team has hosted the ABC Saturday night game in back-to-back weeks since 2008, per AP.

* Notre Dame leads the nation in rushing yards per carry (7.04), and only top-ranked Georgia has shut down the Irish (55 yards, touchdown on 37 carries). They went for 1.58 yards per carry in that game. They went for 7.58 in all others, including 10.10 at Boston College (the week after UGA), 4.55 at Michigan State, 8.02 against USC and 5.89 against North Carolina State. Last week, the Irish gained 380 yards and four touchdowns on 46 carries (8.26) against Wake Forest.

* Junior running back Josh Adams (12 carries, 94 yards and a touchdown last year against Miami) is building a case for the Heisman Trophy, with 1,191 yards and nine touchdowns on 137 carries. Quarterback Brandon Wimbush, a first-year starter as a junior, is just as dangerous (639 yards, 13 touchdowns on 101 carries).

* The third and fourth most-used ballcarriers may be familiar to Miami fans: sophomore Deon McIntosh, the brother of Hurricanes defensive tackle R.J. McIntosh, and junior Dexter Williams, who was committed with Mark Walton (and eventual UF signees Jordan Scarlett and Jordan Cronkrite) in the 2015 recruiting class. Meanwhile, Miami freshman safety Amari Carter chose the Canes over the Irish last year.

* Junior linebacker Tevon Coney and sophomore safety Devin Studstill, both of Palm Beach Gardens High, are two more of the 10 Florida natives on the Irish’s roster. Running backs coach Autry Denson, a Davie-Nova High grad who got his coaching career started in 2010 at now-Saint John Paul II High, was instrumental in recruiting them. There’s another connection to South Florida here, albeit a tragic one: Last May, Greg Bryant, the five-star running back who signed with Notre Dame in 2013 out of American Heritage in Delray Beach, was shot and killed. He was 21.

* Why is this Notre Dame team so good running the ball? It’s a fairly simple recipe: they’re big, strong, tough and execute extremely well. Left tackle Mike McGlinchey, a redshirt senior, and redshirt junior left guard Quenton Nelson are two of the best in college. Wimbush (6-2, 228) and Adams (6-2, 219) have excellent speed and power. Wimbush isn’t totally comfortable throwing downfield — 6.4 yards per attempt, a 51.5 completion percentage — but play-action shots to receiver Equanimeous St. Brown (6-5, 203) and tight ends Alize Mack and Durham Smythe are a major threat with a run game this good.

* Notre Dame’s defense is plenty good, though perhaps not as good as Miami’s.  Notre Dame is 17th in points allowed (18.4). Miami is 12th (17.6).

* Miami ranks 39th against the run (3.92 yards per carry). Notre Dame is slightly better (33rd, 3.76). The Hurricanes are third nationally against the pass (98.34 passer rating allowed). ND is 37th (116.76). The Irish are 46th in sacks per game (Miami is fifth) and 50th in tackles for loss per game (Miami is first).

* Turnovers, as usual, could be huge in this game, since both teams force a lot and don’t lose many. UM is fourth in turnover margin (seventh in interceptions). Notre Dame is tied for fifth.

* Only five teams nationally score more touchdowns in the red zone than the Irish (79.49 percent of the time). Miami ranks 102nd in that category (53.3). On defense, both teams are stingy: the Hurricanes surrender a TD inside the 20 at the fourth-best clip nationally (37.93 percent). The Irish are ninth (44.83).

* Notre Dame has busted nine plays of 60-plus yards, which is tied for fourth in the country. Miami has yet to allow one. All those plays were in the run game, naturally. No other team has more. Miami has two, by the way, one by Travis Homer (64-yard rushing score against Virginia Tech). Notre Dame has four passing plays of 40-plus yards (Miami has 11, ranking 13th nationally). The Irish have allowed one of 40-plus, tied for second in the country. UM, which has allowed a pair, is right behind, tied for fifth.

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