Sun Bowl preview: Notre Dame-Miami (FL)

Officials from Notre Dame and Miami already finalized a revival of the Catholics vs. Convicts rivalry this summer, as the teams are scheduled to clash in 2012 at Chicago’s Soldier Field, home of the NFL’s Bears. The schools also will meet in a home-and-home series in 2016 and 2017.

But Sun Bowl officials had other ideas — they wanted this game in 2010. So the rivalry that was halted after 1990 because of bad blood between the universities will get refueled in El Paso when Brian Kelly’s Fighting Irish take on the Hurricanes, who are led by interim head coach Jeff Stoutland. Al Golden will officially begin his new gig after the game.

Let’s take a look at the Fighting Irish and Hurricanes.

Last meeting: No. 6 Notre Dame beat No. 2 Miami 29-20 on Oct. 20, 1990, in South Bend.

Tommy ReesICONFreshman QB Tommy Rees leads the Irish against the Hurricanes in the Sun Bowl.

Notre Dame: After Dayne Crist was injured in the home loss to Tulsa, true freshman Tommy Rees took over under center for the Irish. And while the coaching staff may have scaled back the offense a little bit for the youngster, ND found success late in the season. Three straight wins, including victories over Utah and USC, have Irish fans feeling good about the future. Rees has tossed 10 touchdowns in the past four games, and he's emerged as a quiet leader. The key in this game is how well the offensive line holds up against a ferocious Miami pass rush. The ‘Canes are sixth in the country in sacks at three per game. If Notre Dame can run the football effectively with their rotation of backs, Rees will be put in third-and-manageable spots. That will be crucial. Tight end Tyler Eifert could be a nice safety valve for the signal caller in this one.

Miami (FL): Which Jacory Harris will show up for the Hurricanes? Stoutland has been telling reporters all week that his senior quarterback has looked focused in practice and that his decision-making has been great. Coordinator Mark Whipple has echoed those sentiments, as well, and the Hurricanes better hope Harris is on because we’ve seen disastrous results when he’s turned the ball over. He’ll get the start over the injured Stephen Morris, and he’s hoping to end his career on a high note. Harris has thrown 14 touchdowns and 12 interceptions on the season, and he’ll be going up against a defense that has allowed just 20.5 points per game. With the Hurricanes exuding depth in the backfield, like the Irish, stopping the run will be critical for Manti Te’o and the rest of Bob Diaco’s unit.

While the Irish defense has played very well in November, unlike in previous years under Charlie Weis, the ‘Canes still have more speed and talent on both sides of the ball. But with the coaching staff in disarray and top players perhaps looking toward the 2011 draft, the Irish may be able to take advantage of an undisciplined and unfocused Miami squad.

Notes:

• One of Miami’s 2010 recruits, tailback Storm Johnson, has really turned heads and impressed the staff in practice and should have an increased role against the Irish.

• It’s been 17 years since Notre Dame ended a season with four or more straight victories. Winning this game would be victory No. 4 to end 2010.

• The Irish lead the all-time series, 15-7-1.

Not yet pumped up for the game? Check out one of the greatest intro’s of all-time. And, of course, the clip features the great Brent Musburger.

Email dave.miller@nationalfootballpost.com or follow me on Twitter at Miller_Dave

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