2010 Hyundai Sun Bowl - Miami vs. Notre Dame
Miami WR Leonard Hankerson & ND LB Manti Te'o
Miami WR Leonard Hankerson & ND LB Manti Te'o
Posted Dec 30, 2010

2010-2011 Bowls - CFN's Preview & Prediction for the 2010 Hyundai Sun Bowl - Miami vs. Notre Dame

2010 Hyundai Sun Bowl

(7-5) vs. Notre Dame (7-5)

Friday, December 31st, 2:00, CBS  

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SCROLL DOWN to the bottom for all the CFNers' confidence picks and bowl history

By Pete Fiutak

Miami vs. Note Dame used to be as big as it college football could get. It used to be when the Irish were at the height of their powers vs. a program that was the superpower of superpowers. It was Holtz vs. Jimmy. It was Catholics vs. Convicts. It was NFL athletes vs. NFL athletes. National titles were at stake, or at least it would play a part in the fun.

Now it's just a game between names.

Statistics In Yards
ND    M
4,539 Total
4,238 Total
25.8 Scoring
20.5 Scoring
1,450 Rushing
1,767 Rushing
3,089 Passing
2,471 Passing
-0.25 Turnover Margin -0.33
Position Rankings
5 Highest - 1 Lowest
ND   M
3 QBs 3.5
3 RBs 3.5
3.5 WRs 3.5
3 O Line 3.5
3 D Line 4
4 LBs 4
3.5 DBs 4
3 STs 4
4 Coach 1.5
CFN 2010 2011 CFN Bowl Previews & Confidence Picks
- New Mexico - BYU vs. UTEP
- Human. - Fresno St vs. NIU
- New Orleans - Troy vs. Ohio
- St. Pete - UL vs. So Miss
- Las Vegas - Utah vs. Boise St
- Poinsettia - SDSU vs. Navy
- Hawaii - Tulsa vs. Hawaii
- Little Caesars - Toledo vs. FIU
- Ind. - Air Force vs. GT
- Champs - NC St vs. WVU
- Insight - Iowa vs. Mizz
- Military - Mary. vs. ECU
- Texas - Illinois vs. Baylor
- Alamo - Ok St vs. Arizona
- Armed Forces - SMU vs. Army
- Pinstripe - SU vs. KSU
- Music City - UNC vs. Tenn
- Holiday - Neb vs. Wash
- Meineke - USF vs. Clemson
- Sun - Miami vs. ND
- Liberty - UCF vs. Georgia
- Chick-fil-A - FSU vs. USC
- TicketCity - NW vs. TT
- Outback - PSU vs. Florida
- Capital One - MSU vs. Bama
- Gator - Mich vs. Miss St
- GoDaddy - MU vs. MT
- Cotton - A&M vs. LSU
- Compass - Pitt vs. UK
- Kraft - BC vs. Nevada
- Rose - UW vs. TCU
- Fiesta - OU vs. UConn
- Orange - Stan. vs. VT
- Sugar - Ark. vs. OSU
- BCS Champ. - Aub. vs. Oregon
It has been 20 years since the two teams played, with the Irish coming up with a 29-20 win in 1990, but the 1989 showdown was everything with the Canes finishing the year 11-1 and with a piece of the national title, and the Irish missing out on a second straight championship with its only loss of the year. The 1988 game was even bigger, and might have been one of the ten best college football games ever played, with Miami going to two and missing as the Irish won 31-30 and went on to win the national title. While each program has had moments of greatness over the last two decades, they're both shadows of their former selves, and they're each in transitional periods.

Things have changed. Miami vs. Notre Dame might still be Catholics vs. Convicts, but the roles have switched.

Miami did almost everything right under Randy Shannon. The program was finally clean, the football team had among the best Academic Progress Reports of anyone in America, and there was a measure of discipline and order that was sorely lacking back in the heyday. But Shannon didn't win enough, couldn't get out of a rut of mediocrity, and Miami has yet to even play for an ACC title, much less win one, since coming over from the Big East. With Temple's Al Golden tagged as the man to try to revive the dinosaur and overcome all the unrealistic expectations, this game is nothing more than a nostalgic exercise. It's a holding pattern game with interim head man Jeff Stoutland trying to show that he's good enough to get a look for a head coaching job somewhere else.

On the flip side, Notre Dame is trying to work through two major scandals that defined Brian Kelly's first season: the Declan Sullivan disaster, and the controversy surrounding the death of Elizabeth Seeberg and her sexual assault allegations against an unnamed Irish football player. Neither case has put the program in a favorable light, but just when it seemed like the season was about to implode, and with several easy excuses to pack it in, the team got inexplicably hot.

Say what you will about the off-the-field problems and the program's handling of them, but Kelly did a masterful job of working through the adversity to get the team's focus back to the field. Not only were there plenty of outside distractions, but losing starting QB Dayne Crist for the year to a knee injury, as well as losing All-America tight end Kyle Rudolph and top running back Armando Allen to a hip problem, gave the team an out for calling this nothing more than a time to rebuild.

It helped that Utah was hung over from getting whumped by TCU, but the 28-3 over the Utes was still a desperately needed win. If that was a season turner, then the 27-3 win over Army was the confidence builder and the 20-16 regular-season win over USC was cathartic. All of a sudden, the football team and Kelly were having their cake and eating it too with the wins starting to come while also getting to throw several young players into the mix a bit too early.

As was the case way too often under Charlie Weis, Notre Dame came painfully close to doing some really big things, but didn't quite have the talent to get them done. The Irish had chances to win against Michigan, got nailed by an all-timer of a play-call against Michigan State, and lost to Navy by a point. Yeah, ifs and buts, but it could be argued that Notre Dame was roughly four plays away from being 10-2 and in a BCS game. Of course, it would've all been a mirage, like the BCS appearances were under Weis and Ty Willingham, and winning close games and making those extra three or four plays is the difference between going bowling and going to the BCS, but even with all the injuries and all the problems, the on-field part of the season hasn't been a total wreck. Best of all, it might not take that much tweaking for the program to be where Irish fans have been dreaming. If the USC win was the official kick-off of the good times under Kelly, if they come, then the win over Miami would be special.

The lrish blew away Hawaii in the 2008 Hawaii Bowl, but lost the previous nine bowl games going back to the 1994 Cotton Bowl win over Texas A&M. On the other side, big, bad Miami has lost three of its last four bowl games and needed everything in the bag to beat Nevada 21-20 in the 2006 MPC Computers Bowl.

The Canes never got into a flow this year, partly because QB Jacory Harris couldn't stop throwing interceptions, and partly because Harris got hurt. While 7-5 doesn't fly around Coral Gables no matter what, one of the losses was at Ohio State and one was to Virginia Tech. Those defeats were acceptable; getting blown out by Florida State and losing to South Florida, to effectively make Miami No. 4 in its own state, at best, puts coaches on a hot seat. Losing to Virginia, on top of everything else, means it's time for a regime change. A win over the Irish might put a nice cap on the season, but it would also jack up the expectations for Al Golden that much more.

Going back to 1935, the Sun is one of the oldest of the bowls, and while it has never taken off as a major game, it has produced some tremendous showdowns highlighted by a stretch from 1984 to 1992 when every game but one was decided by five points or fewer, and there was a run from 1999 to 2004 when five of the six games were decided by six points or fewer. Three of the last four have been close, with the Pac 10 winning five of the last six, but this is the first time either Miami or Notre Dame will play in it. Let's hope it's half as good as the late 1980s classics.

Players to Watch: It's this simple for Miami. Jacory Harris has to be good … if he's the man. The 6-4, 200-pound junior missed most of November with a concussion, and even though he returned for the South Florida game and completed 12-of-18 passes, he only threw for 110 yards with a pick. Interceptions have been his problem throwing 17 last year and 12 in his eight games this year, and while the team was able to overcome the errors to beat Pitt and Clemson on the road, the four thrown against Ohio State cost the Canes the game. He's not the most accurate passer around, but Notre Dame's secondary isn't exactly full of future pros. This is his game to show that he's still the main man to run the attack once Golden takes over, but if he fails, and if he has a disastrous outing, he'll have to fight hard with Stephen Morris to get his job back in spring ball. Morris would've been in the hunt for the start, but he hurt his ankle in bowl practices.

Harris has to be great, but Notre Dame true freshman Tommy Rees just has to be better than he was against USC. Thrown into the fire after Dayne Crist's knee injury, Rees wasn't bad late against Navy, completing 6-of-7 passes for 79 yards, and while the Irish lost to Tulsa the next week, he threw for 334 yards and four scores on 54 attempts. He has the ability and the skills to be the franchise playmaker in the Brian Kelly offense over the next three years, and this is his game to take the program by the horns. Just like the 2008 Hawaii Bowl made Jimmy Clausen the unquestioned main man for the Irish going into 2009, Rees can parlay a good bowl game into eight months of hype. To do that, the picks have to be kept to a minimum after throwing three against the Trojans in a shaky outing.

While the spotlight will be on the two quarterbacks, this could be the chance when America finally starts to take Notre Dame's Manti Te'o seriously as one of the nation's top linebackers. The superstar recruit of 2009 made 63 stops in a good first year, and this season he has been a one-man wrecking crew at times and is easily living up to his promise and potential making 123 tackles with a 21-stop day against Stanford and with 13 against Navy. He has prototype NFL size and gets to the ball-carrier in a hurry.

Miami will win if ... Rees has to make too many decisions. The Notre Dame offensive line hasn't been awful this year, but it's going to have its hands full with a Miami pass rush that comes from many sides, many angles, and in many disguises. While end Allen Bailey is the star of the show, he's hardly the only pass rusher the Irish will worry about with all four spots up front able to get into the backfield. Rees has to get the ball out of his hands as quick as a hiccup. He's not going to get time to find his second or third option, and it'll be interesting to see how the coaching staff has worked with him over the last month to make his reads that much sharper. Miami's defense can be beaten, but it'll take an accurate day from Rees. The chances will be there for the Cane secondary to pick off a few passes, and they need to take advantage.

On the other side, the Miami offensive front has to get the ground game moving. Miami has speed and talent in a crowded backfield, but Damien Berry leads a group that hasn't been able to take off. In a bit of a stunner, Notre Dame's best defensive lineman, nose tackle Ian Williams, will be back from a knee injury that appeared to cost him the season. While he might not be quite to the pre-injury level, his presence could be enough to gum up the works and free Te'o and Brian Smith to make more plays against the middling Cane rushing attack. However, even with Williams and with the good linebacking corps, the Irish can be pounded on and Miami has to at least try. The less the passing game has to carry the water, the better.

Notre Dame will win if ... it wins the turnover battle. Miami has more talent all across the board and has the speed and athleticism to blow the doors off the Irish if everything is clicking, but that's the case in most Hurricane games; it hasn't mattered. There's a reason Miami is 7-5, and it mostly has to do with the 32 turnovers that offset all the good things done by the aggressive defense. Notre Dame was able to get away with a slew of mistakes against USC, but that's not going to work against the Canes, who'll capitalize on every break and every error. However, if the Irish can take the ball out of Rees's hands, get good performances out of the rushing tandem of Robert Hughes and Cierre Woods, and can bully the Canes up front, the offense will move the ball.

The biggest factor for Notre Dame could be the weather. Miami didn't quit against Wisconsin in last year's Champs Sports Bowl, evidenced by the wild final few minutes, but the team was obviously affected by the unseasonably cold night. It was balmy for the Badgers, while the Canes couldn't get under their parkas fast enough. El Paso might not be frigid, but it's not going to be warm with temperatures expected to be around the low-40s. Miami and toughness haven't exactly gone hand in hand over the last few seasons, and it would be in much better shape in a humid 80 degrees.

What will happen: Miami is the better team, but it was the better team against Virginia and South Florida, too, and that didn't seem to matter. Rees can undergo all the preparation possible over the 15 bowl practices and he's still not going to be ready for the Miami pass rush. Notre Dame will try to get physical early and should be able to run the ball, but Rees will throw three picks and Miami will come away with a win that should be a blowout, but won't be with three Hurricane turnovers keeping it close.

CFN Prediction: Miami 26 … Notre Dame 20 ... Line: Miami -3
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Sun Bowl History
2009 Oklahoma 31, Stanford 27
2008 Oregon State 3, Pitt 0
2007 Oregon 56, South Florida 21
2006 Oregon State 39, Missouri 38
2005 UCLA 50, Northwestern 38
2004 Arizona State 27, Purdue 23
2003 Minnesota 31, Oregon 30
2002 Purdue 34, Washington 24
2001 Washington St 33, Purdue 27
2000 Wisconsin 21, UCLA 20
1999 Oregon 24, Minnesota 20
1998 TCU 28, USC 19
1997 Arizona State 17, Iowa 7
1996 Stanford 38, Michigan St 0
1995 Iowa 38, Washington 18
1994 Texas 35, North Carolina 31
1993 Oklahoma 41, Texas Tech 10
1992 Baylor 20, Arizona 15
1991 UCLA 6, Illinois 3
1990 Michigan State 17, USC 16
1989 Pitt 31 Texas A&M 28
1988 Alabama 29, Army 28
1987 Oklahoma State 35, West Virginia 33
1986 Alabama 28, Washington 6
1985 Arizona 13, Georgia 13
1984 Maryland 28, Tennessee 27
1983 Alabama 28, SMU 7
1982 North Carolina 26, Texas 10
1981 Oklahoma 40, Houston 14
1980 Nebraska 31, Mississippi State 17
1979 Washington 14, Texas 7
1978 Texas 42, Maryland 0
1977 (Dec.) Stanford 24, LSU 14
1977 (Jan.) Texas A&M 37, Florida 14
1975 Pitt 33, Kansas 19
1974 Mississippi State 26, North Carolina 24
1973 Missouri 34, Auburn 17
1972 North Carolina 32, Texas Tech 28
1971 LSU 33, Iowa State 15
1970 Georgia Tech 17, Texas Tech 9
1969 Nebraska 45, Georgia 6
1968 Auburn 34, Arizona 10
1967 UTEP 14, Mississippi 7
1966 Wyoming 28, Florida State 20
1965 UTEP 13, TCU 12
1964 Georgia 7, Texas Tech 0
1963 Oregon 21, SMU 14
1962 West Texas A&M 15, Ohio 14
1961 Villanova 17, Wichita State 9
1960 New Mexico State 20, Utah State 13
1959 New Mexico State 28, North Texas 8
1958 (Dec.) Wyoming 14, Hardin-Simmons 6
1958 (Jan.) Louisville 34, Drake 20
1957 George Wash 13, UTEP 0
1956 Wyoming 21, Texas Tech 14
1955 UTEP 47, Florida State 20
1954 UTEP 37, Southern Miss 14
1953 Pacific 26, Southern Miss 7
1952 Texas Tech 25, Pacific 14
1951 West Texas A&M 14, Cincinnati 13
1950 UTEP 33, Georgetown 20
1949 West Virginia 21, UTEP 12
1948 Miami-Ohio 13, Texas Tech 12
1947 Cincinnati 18, Virginia Tech 16
1946 New Mexico 34, Denver 24
1945 Southwestern (TX) 35, New Mexico 0
1944 Southwestern (TX) 7, New Mexico 0
1943 Second Air Force 13, Hardin-Simmons 7
1942 Tulsa 6, Texas Tech 0
1941 Case Reserve 26, Arizona St 13
1940 Arizona State 0, Catholic 0
1939 Utah 26, New Mexico 0
1938 West Virginia 7, Texas Tech 6
1937 Hardin-Simmons 34, UTEP 6
1936 Hardin-Simmons 14, New Mexico State 14

CFN Staff Confidence Pick ATS: Notre Dame  Confidence Score: 54
OVERALL CONFIDENCE (35 most - 1 least): 17 out of 35

Pete Fiutak: Pick ATS - Miami  Pick Confidence - 11
- This is to Miami vs. Notre Dame what a Def Leppard/Quiet Riot concert would be to reunion tours, but Miami vs. Notre Dame sounds like it should be cool. While Miami is playing through a holding pattern as it figures out what it's going to do next now that Randy Shannon has been canned, a win for the Irish would be a phenomenal finish to a tumultuous season. If Notre Dame wins, Brian Kelly will go into the offseason with wins over USC and Miami.

Richard Cirminiello: Pick ATS - Notre Dame  Pick Confidence - 11
- Is there a bigger coaching mismatch this postseason? Notre Dame's Brian Kelly has led teams to two BCS bowl games. Miami's Jeff Stoutland is serving on an interim basis after being the team's O-line coach during the regular season.

Matt Zemek: Pick ATS - Notre Dame  Pick Confidence - 12
- "Out in the West Texas town of El Paso, Catholics and Convicts convened on a field. Daytime will find you on national TV. Loads of turnovers you both will soon yield." Marty Robbins song parodies aside, it really is equally enthralling and disjointing to see the tradition-drenched school from Indiana and the Florida school with big-time accomplishments but no fan loyalty meeting near the Mexican border in the middle of the desert. This isn't a Fiesta Bowl in front of 75,000 fans, but then again, the Sun Bowl is the nation's fourth-oldest bowl game and arguably the most underappreciated bowl game of them all. It's really neat to see this matchup happen specifically in El Paso; the quality of play, though, is what's likely to disappoint and take the sheen off the event. No matter, the locals in El Paso will get a huge crowd and a successful week, and that's good for the Sun Bowl. Anything good for the Sun Bowl is okay by me. It's a bowl Americans should want to thrive.

Russ Mitchell: Pick ATS - Miami  Pick Confidence - 14
- Too bad this isn't the 1980s.

Barrett Sallee: Pick ATS - Miami  Pick Confidence - 31
- Catholics vs. Convicts returns? Count me in. Both teams are rather mediocre, but the historical significance of this one can't be ignored. Surely it will be one of the highest-rated non-BCS bowl games of the season.

Gabe Harris: Pick ATS - Notre Dame  Pick Confidence - 17
Brian Harbach: Pick ATS - Notre Dame  Pick Confidence - 18
Matthew Smith: Pick ATS - Notre Dame  Pick Confidence - 21
Billy Gomila: Pick ATS - Notre Dame  Pick Confidence - 15
Clucko (A coin flip): Pick ATS - Notre Dame    Pick Confidence -  16