It is finally here. For the first time since 1990, the Miami Hurricanes and Notre Dame Fighting Irish will square off in the regular season. Much has changed for both schools since they discontinued what was one of the hottest rivalries in college football, but the Canes once again have the chance to make a big statement with an upset of the ninth-ranked Irish.
"I'm excited about the opportunity to play Notre Dame in Chicago," UM head coach Al Golden said this week. Miami has its work cut out for it. The Irish are favored by 13 points, as they have ascended into the top 10 of the polls for the first time since 2006.
Can the Canes (4-1) pull off a shocking upset? Or are the Irish (4-0) simply too much for Golden's young squad to handle?
When the Canes have the ball: "No one scores against them," UM offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch said about Notre Dame's defense this week. The Irish have given up only 36 points in four games this season, two of which were against ranked opponents.
"They don't make a lot of mistakes at all," Fisch said of the Irish's defense. "I'm not sure I've seen a mistake [on film]."
Not that the Canes don't have any firepower on offense. UM is averaging 472 yards per game on offense, and QB Stephen Morris broke a school record last week with a 566-yard, five-touchdown performance against N.C. State.
The Irish defense is keyed by LB Manti Te'o, heralded as one of the best defenders in the country. "We expect him to make plays. ... He's one of a kind," Morris said of Te'o.
When the Irish have the ball: While the Canes offense-Irish defense matchup is a case of unstoppable force versus immovable object, the other side of the ball is suspect for both teams. Notre Dame's offense averages a pedestrian 351 yards per game, while the Canes defense gives up 495 yards per game.
Golden calls Notre Dame "clearly a team that provides you (a) different challenge" on offense, with a "rugged" offensive line and talent across the skill positions. Sophomore QB Everett Golson has taken a majority of the snaps, completing 56 percent of his passes for 641 yards.
RB Theo Riddick is Notre Dame's most dangerous threat, with 359 all-purpose yards. The Irish are 77th in FBS in scoring, which should give Canes fans hope. But UM struggled to contain light-scoring outfit N.C. State last week, which is likely the better indicator for Saturday.
Who has the edge? Miami's offense has feasted on lesser opponents since losing to Kansas State in the second week of the season. Against a unit like Notre Dame's Morris and company will have a much tougher go at scoring enough points to compensate for UM's struggling defense.
The Pick: Notre Dame 24-Miami 10
Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m. on NBC 6.